Now more than ever, undergraduate students are taking advantage of state of the art facilities at their disposal to conduct their own independent research projects. Lauren Josephs and Ethan Edson are two such students, working with faculty advisors at the MSC, and both have recently received the Provost’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors Award. The competitive grant is given to exemplary undergraduate students pursuing independent research under the direction of Northeastern researchers. The research areas of the students exemplify the diversity of research currently being conducted at the MSC.

Under the direction of postdoctoral researcher Steven Scyphers, Lauren will use the funds to continue and expand a project she is working on in the Grabowski lab. As she progressed through her Marine Biology degree, Lauren developed an interest in conservation and its connection to social science. Then during her year traveling with the Three Seas Program, Josephs met Steven Scyphers during the Marine Conservation class that he leads in Friday Harbor, Washington. Lauren was very excited to learn about her and Steven’s shared interests and commented, “Steven’s research works at the interface of coastal ecology and sociology, and he is passionate about human welfare as a component of coastal management.”

Upon returning from Three Seas, Lauren was accepted to a co-op position with Scyphers in the Grabowski lab where she has gained expert guidance and pursued her interests in social science and conservation. For her research, Lauren will conduct surveys of coastal homeowners to understand their values and beliefs regarding their connection to marine resources. She will use survey data to recruit participants for focus groups where she will collect and organize information regarding resident perceptions of coastal ecosystem health. This information will build upon an expanding base of knowledge to develop targeted and successful resource conservation and management efforts.

Under the direction of MSC faculty member Mark Patterson, Ethan will use funds to support the design and deployment of a remote oceanographic sensor. After a co-op and a semester taking classes with the SEA Education Association at Woods Hole, Ethan became interested and involved in efforts to assess and solve the problem of microplastic pollution in the ocean.  “There is a lot of plastic pollution hundreds of miles offshore and people don’t even realize because they are not exposed to it,” says Ethan, “so raising awareness and understanding its impact is crucial.”

Ethan’s project with Patterson will result in a prototype free floating oceanographic sensor, which takes samples and measures ocean water for microplastics, as well as other biologically relevant information. Ethan hopes that a fleet of these inexpensive remote sensors could someday take the place of expensive oceanographic cruises.

Regarding the award, Ethan says, “Overall I am really excited. This contribution has allowed me to not only purchase equipment, but to get the chance to travel and talk to other professionals about similar technologies.”

Both Ethan and Lauren plan to present their research at the Northeastern RISE Expo, as well as at least one external scientific meeting related to each of their expertise. As graduating seniors, soon making their transition into careers or graduate school, both students value the opportunities for traveling and networking afforded by the award. Their stories are a shining example of the invaluable opportunities available to Northeastern students at via the University’s commitment to experiential education.