The Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences runs an NSF-funded summer oceanography internship program called Research Internships in Oceanography (RIOS), which is currently guided by professor Josh Kohut. The program, which has hosted 183 undergraduates from all over the US for the past 15 years, hosts interns in the study of a range of topics, including oysters, to Antarctic krill, to plastics in our estuaries, to hurricanes in the Caribbean. RIOS has a merit-based selection process and approximately a dozen bright undergraduates are invited to come to Rutgers each year for summer research.
Among the teams of stellar undergraduates participating in the internship program were a couple of exceptional young students, who, over the course of the last two years, joined the lab of associate professor Daphne Munroe at the Haskin Shellfish Research Lab in Port Norris, NJ.
Niki Cleary, a RIOS intern in 2018, came from Villanova University to work with Munroe on sonar surveys of horseshoe crabs at the Cape Shore flats. Her research focused on testing whether horseshoe crabs use intertidal habitats differently when oyster farms are present. Her careful analysis of sonar videos, and data analysis showed that crabs do not use the habitat differently, and farms do not impede their access to inshore spawning sites. Niki is just beginning a graduate program at Duke University this fall semester.
“Niki was a successful track and field athlete at her home institution, and not only worked hard during her internship to do excellent research, but independently maintained her training while in south Jersey during the summer,” said Munroe.
In 2019, Samantha Estrada, a sophomore from Fairleigh Dickinson University majoring in marine biology, came to the Munroe lab to follow-up on the research conducted by Niki in the previous year. Samantha was interested in further testing the ways that oyster farms may interact with horseshoe crab migration. In her research, she tested whether horseshoe crabs move or behave differently when transiting through farms, and found that the direction and movement (velocity and path) were relatively unaltered by the presence of farms.
According to Munroe, both students were awarded top honors for their research and presentation of results in their respective years, and won an all-expenses paid trip to present their findings at a major oceanography conference, the annual meeting of the Association for Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.
“Kudos to Niki and Samantha, and all of their RIOS colleagues, who bring fresh energy and ideas into our department each summer,” added Munroe.