STEP Undergraduate Research – Ocean Reef Soundscape


This summer I was a Marine Physical Lab intern at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in La Jolla, CA. This program lasted for 10 weeks and culminated in an end-of-the-summer research presentation where I presented my research project to other members of my lab and other program participants. Within the Marine Physical Lab I was a part of the Marine Bioacoustics Lab under the direction of the principle investigator, Dr. Ana Širović, and one of her doctoral candidates, Katherine Cameron. My research project was to listen to and log calls collected via hydrophone off the southwest coast of the Little Cayman Island in order to learn the soundscape and localize fish calls, identify what type of call is made by what kind of fish, in order to lay the groundwork for further research in this area. The primary target of the project I worked on was to assess if there are acoustical triggers for Nassau Grouper, Epinephelus striatus, larvae to help them identify the locations of their primary habitat, coral reefs, versus the open ocean. This internship also provided lectures by factuality members in the Marine Physical Lab as well as tours of facilities, the Scripps’ Machine Shop, and an audio and 3D imagining research center on UCSD’s main campus. Also due to my position as an intern, I was allowed to attend several symposiums and tours of research vessels that occurred on Scripps campus and in San Diego while I was there. I was also given the opportunity to go out on the ocean and collect whale poop for a different doctoral student’s research. I also got to explore San Diego and do a lot of other fun things such as learn how to surf (surfboard provided by the lab), snorkel around La Jolla Cove with harbor seals, and play my bass at an art gallery opening.

So What?

This experience helped me discover and explore a possible career path. I am pursuing a dual degree in Earth System Sciences and Music Education and have been searching for a good way to combine my interests. Marine acoustics is a good combination of the two disciplines as it allows me to combine my interest in oceanography with a study of the music of the ocean. This internship also allowed me to perform undistracted research and see if I enjoyed just doing research. This opportunity helped me understand that playing the bass is also important to me, and that I should make sure I continue to play, no matter what my profession ends up being. All of the symposiums, talks, and tours I was able to go on helped expand my knowledge of the field of marine acoustics, especially marine mammal acoustics, internal waves, the Keeling Curve, and many other topics and gave me a good idea of what a career in the profession would be like.

Now What?

As I am trying to decide whether I want to become a research scientist or a teacher, this gave me a good look into what it would be like to be a research scientist. It also gave me an in-depth look at what it would be like to live and work by the ocean. This research experience helped drive me to join another lab, Dr. Derek Sawyer’s Basin Research lab group, in addition to Dr. Anne Carey’s research group, in order to continue research in the field of marine acoustics.