Katherine Woolford, 2019, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

I worked as a research intern in the COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. CORAL is a three-year NASA Earth Venture Suborbital field campaign that used advanced airborne and in-water instruments to survey a representative portion of the world’s coral reefs. On the ground in Bermuda, I managed flume mesocosms to measure photosynthetically available radiation, temperature, oxygen, water flow, pH and spectral signatures of reef benthic organisms and substrates. The reflectance spectra can be linked empirically to light-use efficiency, allowing us to better understand the reef’s health in relation to the environment, including physical, chemical and human factors. In the near future, this will allow remote spectral sensing to measure the long-term condition of these threatened ecosystems. Over the course of the summer, I learned that the scientific method is not a simple one: questions and complications constantly arose, requiring philosophical and physical troubleshooting from start to finish. Thankfully, this experience will prepare me for my thesis research and hopefully graduate school, as it taught me technical lab skills such as data management and meticulous record-keeping, as well as patience and perseverance.