My summer internship at MSEL and PICRC – Sarah Waszkewitz

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I had the great opportunity to conduct my undergraduate thesis research with Alyssa Marshell from MSEL at the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) over June – July 2014. I am a rising 4th year at Princeton University and am pursuing a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies. Multiple funding sources from my University allowed me to complete my thesis research; The Ecology and Evolutionary Department, Princeton Environmental Institute, Community Based Learning Initiative, Fred Fox Class of 1939 Fund, Office of the Dean of the College.

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For my research project I investigated and compared the ecological role of Ctenochaetus striatus (locally known in Palau as Masech) in different reef habitats. I collected information on the abundance, diet, feeding behaviour, body condition, home range, and swimming speeds of the Masech in both sheltered back-reef and exposed outer-reef sites. Environmental parameters such as water-flow, light-levels, and sedimentation-levels were also collected at the sites. Furthermore, information collected on Masech’s diet, will allow me to examine the ability of these extremely abundant fish to remove algal turfs from the reef, which collectively may benefit coral reef resilience following disturbances such as typhoons.

My time in Palau was very beneficial in preparing me for my future after graduation both professionally and personally. I learned so much from Alyssa about conducting research and general marine life and cannot thank her enough for all her help with my project. I would also like to thank the staff of PICRC who allowed me to participate in their pre-bleaching and grouper spawning surveys further enhancing my research experience this summer. The past two months has been not only a productive but unforgettable experience. Lastly, a special thanks to Prof. Peter Mumby for this great opportunity to work with Alyssa Marshell and MSEL to complete my undergraduate thesis research.