Spotlight on Interns: Katie Gilbert

Hosting interns at Ocean Alliance is hugely important to our mission! The work we do simply could not continue if we didn’t nurture a new crop of future scientists, researchers and engineers into the world each year to solve the pressing challenges faced by our oceans.
So in that light, we thought it fitting that each of our interns gets introduced to you and a chance to shine in a spotlight, and as a thanks for all their hard work, with hopefully a bit of a leg-up into their new career. We start off our series with Katie Gilbert.
Name: Katie Gilbert
Studied: Received B.S. in Marine Science Concentration Marine Biology this past May (2015)
Studied at:  University of New England in Biddeford, ME
What brought you to choose to study this subject?
 My family would take trips to the beaches of Cape Cod and southern Maine, where as a kid, I would wade through tide pools exploring the creatures they held. I just loved exploring and spending my time by the water, I was very curious and wanted to know more about it.
Also, around the fifth grade, my family went to Discovery Cove in Florida, where I was given the experience to swim with Bottlenose dolphins.  This is one of my most memorable experiences where I was so moved and amazed by these wonderful creatures.  From then on, I knew I wanted to study the ocean and the life within it, and someday like to find a career in the field of marine biology.
What have you accomplished in your studies thus far?
During my 4 years at the University of New England I got as involved as I could in my major, research, and social activities/clubs on campus. Some major accomplishments include:
I spent the last three years as a research assistant in Dr. Kathryn Ono’s lab, where research focused on pinniped behavior, ecology, and conservation.  I started out helping with a graduate student’s thesis project, by analyzing some of her data and photos of Grey seal pups from Muskeget Island. Then from their I started my own undergraduate research project by conducting a study on the Diet Composition of Grey Seals (Halichoerus grypus) in New England from Scat Analysis. Along with the articulation of an Adult Male Grey Seal Skeleton where the completed skeleton is hung for display in the Marine Science Center at UNE. I have also been out in the field on a field research trip to Muskeget Island (Jan. 2014) where I was a participant of research effort to collect Grey seal scat for my research project and help with other research efforts while on the Grey seal breeding island. 
I also spent some time volunteering and gaining experiences in Marine Mammal/Animal Care, where I volunteered at the Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Conservation Center (MARC) (2013-2014).   I received training for Animal Care volunteer at MARC to aid in the rehabilitation and release of Harbor, Harp, and Grey seals and Loggerhead sea turtles. 
During the school year I volunteered one 4 hour shift a week to help with feeds, food & medicine prep, weighing & recording animal notes/records, restraining, cleaning rooms & pools, basic water quality testing, aiding in sea turtle x-rays, and release of cleared seals at beaches. 
Then I spent time educating the public and school groups about MARC and marine mammals, being a Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Conservation Center (MARC) Docent (2014) facilitating educational tours to school and other groups of the role and function of the MARC facility.
This last year at UNE, I presented my research on “Diet Composition of Grey Seals (Halichoerus grypus) in New England from Scat Analysis” and the articulation of the Grey Seal skeleton at a few symposiums. The presentations included: the Northeast Undergraduate Research and Development Symposium (NURDS), (March 7 & 8, 2015) and University of New England Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Symposium, (Fall 2014) where I did a Poster Presentation for both. I also presented at the University of New England’s College of Arts and Sciences Student Research and Scholarship Symposium on May 1st, 2015 where I did an oral presentation on the same research stated above.
What’s been your major tasks at Ocean Alliance so far?

  • Helping with Proposal/Research for a whale education box for Surprise Ride Organization
  • Painting the wooden Sperm whale cut-out, to have on display at the Kick starter event and to use for future OA events
  • Making/Designing a Robotics Brochure for OA
  • Making the Kickstarter/Snot Bot Flyer to go onto the 7 Seas Whale Watch Boat
  • Helping Andy test pH probes to determine which was best for Ocean Sentinels Project, and to help edit and read over the drafts of documents for this project.

What have you most enjoyed about working at Ocean Alliance?
Meeting and getting to know the staff and other interns, and getting the opportunity to help with all the projects.  It’s great knowing that the help each of us interns provide goes towards a larger cause to help the whales and the health of the oceans.  For example, helping with the Kickstarter is helping to raise money and awareness for the Snot Bot research, which is future and innovative research.
What have you learned about yourself and your subjects at Ocean Alliance?
What’s it like working for a non-profit compared to studying?
There are similarities between the two, when doing research it takes a lot of time/commitment, dedication, patience, and background work to gather an understanding and knowledge on the topic of research and working at a non-profit I feel it is very similar; it takes patience, time/commitment and hard-work, and background work to get to the point where projects and results happen.
What’s your favorite marine mammal – and why?
This is a very tough and loaded question, especially since I have spent the last few years researching and taking classes that focused on marine mammals. I find all marine mammals interesting to study and learn more about. All have characteristics and behaviors that amaze me. I have to break this question down by saying my favorite Pinniped is the Grey Seal because I have spent the last few years studying and conducting a research project on Grey Seal diet composition in New England. I also helped at a Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Conservation Center and spent time helping to rehabilitate a few Grey seals which was a wonderful opportunity to help with to heal them and release them back to the wild again.  My favorite Cetacean is the Spinner or Atlantic White-sided dolphin, because I love their morphology, and how dolphins are very social animals, which have many behaviors above or under the surface.  
What’s your favorite ocean film – and why?
I like almost every ocean themed film that I have seen, they all have some element to them that I like whether it is just a fun, cute movie like Finding Nemo, to movies that have a message to show the public awareness on an ocean issue, like Dolphin Tale which shows the side of marine animal rehabilitation. I even enjoy documentary movies where I can learn more about life in the ocean, I have watched many over the years at school. 
What do you hope to become when you finish your studies?
I have finished my undergraduate studies, so this summer I became a 7 Seas Whale Watch Intern and Ocean Alliance Intern to gain more experiences in the marine mammal realm and build my resume. I plan to go back to school to get my graduate degree in Marine Biology next fall (Fall 2016) after this gap year, and then my overall career goals are to get a job in marine sciences preferably with marine mammals whether it is working in a research lab, rehabilitation, in the field, or at an aquarium. 
What are your hopes for the future as you look at our world today?
Hope to make the future a better place, and to help learn and research more about the ocean to educate all and help to make a difference. To educate others on the ocean and life within it and how we need to protect and cherish what we have in our vast oceans. 

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