Name: Rose mcdonald
Hometown: Miami, Florida
What is your major? Master in Environmental Policy and Management
Where did you do your internship? MAR Expeditions: Zavora Marine Lab
What was your title? Research intern
How did you get your internship? Since I was little, I have always wanted to see and work with manta rays. So I focused all my efforts on finding an internship that would have allowed me to work alongside the efforts to protect them. Fortunately, through my various efforts to try to secure an internship, a colleague and now a dear friend suggested that I seek internships in Mozambique – given that it is one of the few untouched coastlines with marine biodiversity. incredible and that many organizations are trying to establish marine protected areas. along the coastline. I contacted MAR Expeditions and they were looking for interns to work in their marine lab with many different projects (including manta ray population studies) and decided to travel halfway around the world to Zavora, Mozambique .
What were you doing there I was helping Chief Marine Biologist Nakia Cullain collect data for her PhD. in the structure of the elasmobranch community in relation to the differences in environmental parameters, as well as the collection and analysis of data collected on the Zavora reef systems through scuba diving and snorkeling in the areas studied laboratories.
What projects have you worked on? Fortunately, my internship ended during the summer semester of the FIU, which means it was winter in Mozambique. This has allowed me to participate in all the projects the lab focuses on as winter is the peak season for humpback whales and manta rays in Zavora. I have collected and analyzed data on Zavora reef systems by collecting individual manta ray identification underwater photos, land surveys of humpback whale population, fish surveys, etc.
I helped the labs work on manta ray population studies by taking underwater identification photos of individuals of the two manta ray species that visited the bay. These collected data allow the laboratory to see the sex of manta rays, their size, if the population has interactions with other populations along the coastline, which causes injuries (predators, fishing lines or boats), etc.
I have also conducted land surveys of the humpback whale population by collecting data at the point of collection for laboratory surveys. Land surveys consisted of using binoculars to record whale behavior in five hour increments. Whale sightings are also documented as points on a map that were transferred to GIS maps previously to prove in a study that Zavora Bay is a breeding site for humpback whales.
At each dive site, I would participate in predatory fish surveys by documenting the data on a slate while sailing through the reef. The documented data included the fish species found, the abundance of fish and the estimated size of each individual species.
How does your internship relate to your curriculum? This internship really joined my course by allowing me to acquire skills acquired in class and to apply them in the field. In the EPM-PSM program, the main courses that have helped me throughout my experience have been Conservation Biology, Environmental GIS, Sustainable Research Management Methods, and Environmental Resource Management. These coupled courses prepared me to see how conservation work works in the real world and how fieldwork and proper management combine with environmental policies to protect our marine ecosystems.
What’s the coolest thing that happened during your internship? Dive in one of the best dive sites in the world and be able to swim with humpback whales, manta rays and whale sharks. And also seeing many endangered species with insufficient data, such as the small-eyed stingray, that I never could have imagined having the opportunity to see.
What did you like the most about your experience? I loved being able to work with manta rays, meeting amazing people who are also looking to make a difference and being able to both work and live in a third world country and really see how local communities depend on marine ecosystems. I really enjoyed making friendships with the locals and being a part of their community during my three months in rural Africa.
What have you learned about yourself? I have mainly learned during my absence that I am more resilient and patient than I thought. While I was away it was difficult at first not to have all the resources that the United States has and how difficult it is to do research properly without always having the necessary tools, but whatever the circumstances, I was finally able to complete the work assigned to me and successfully complete my internship.
What advice would you give to those new to the internship process? My best advice would be to start looking for internships as early as possible and network with everyone to find the right one for you. Without expressing my desires and efforts for this type of internship, my colleague would never have offered it to me and I would not have had the wonderful experience I had.
How did the position increase your professional confidence? The Research Intern position at MAR Expeditions: Zavora Marine Lab gave me more confidence to apply for jobs after graduation. Now having this experience, given that I have been able to participate in many different projects, I feel equipped and competent to step into a professional role – compared to before where I was more hesitant to apply.
How did the internship broaden your professional network? This internship considerably broadened my professional network. I have met many scientists and conservation professionals from all over the world throughout my stay in Mozambique. It has also opened up many new connections in the United States as many of those who have interned at MAR Expeditions in the past live here. Overall I would recommend this internship to anyone interested in marine life.