Immersed In Coral Research at The New York Aquarium
Osborne Laboratories of Marine Sciences is a very special place,”
said Ariana Chan, a junior at Midwood High School and one of students
who have the opportunity to work as interns at the Wildlife Conservation
Society’s New York Aquarium at Coney Island this summer. “You
learn so much. And that’s not all: I believe that the coral research
program I participate in is accomplishing something very important.”
Coral reefs are indeed ecosystems of enormous biodiversity. They
are also in enormous trouble, so the research conducted at OLMS—one
of the very few labs in the world capable of conducting controlled
experiments on reef-building corals—have the potential to make
a great difference.
of the professors we work with—John Williams from Columbia University—is
currently researching coral’s potential cancer-curing properties,”
could also be used for bone grafts,” added Juan Carlos Velez,
another high school intern. “But, besides their medicinal qualities,
they are important in feeding some third world countries, saving
the seashore from erosion and, due to their beauty, general tourism
you know” asked Velez, of the over 1 million different species
on the coral reef, only 10 per cent is presently known to science?”
Chan and Velez are both conducting research projects for the INTEL
National Talent Search in Science. Still, they heard of OLMS by
mere word of mouth.
have no organized tie-ins with schools”, Lab Manager for the Coral
Research Laboratory Sam Jones said. “But we have 20 applications
every summer for five spots. And you don’t necessarily have to
be a science genius to work here, either. In fact, one of the
criteria I use is showing a lot of interest in activities outside
of school. I look for some diversity of experience as well, including
hiring at least one or two interns who have not done any previous
one of our goals here is education,” added Jones. “We tell our
interns the beginning and the end of your research project. But
we urge them to develop their own problem-solving skills in figuring
out how to get there.”
But just how does a student get to a unique place such as OLMS
in the first place? Chan, and volunteer Mike Duggan, a Bowling
Green State University major in Marine Science, admit to having
“an interest in the ocean from early childhood.”
was born right across the bay here in Breezy Point,” Duggan said.
“So, you could say, there’s water in my blood.” Velez, on the
other hand, just had an “inqusitive nature”, and was then immensely
inspired by two of his teachers. “When I go snorkeling,” he said,
“I don’t just want to look at the pretty things in the water.
I’m the kind of person who wants to know what they are and what
makes them tick. Still, I would have never achieved this level
of interest without the inspiration of Orne (his retired oceanography
teacher) and my Earth Science teacher Tufano.”
encouraged me to get engaged in research,” Velez said. “They told
me that if I’m really interested in something, I could do anything
I want to do.”#
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