My name is Jason and last semester I came to CEI as an intern with the Lionfish program. While working here I got to work on things ranging from catching deepwater sharks to installing new netting on the aquaculture cage to performing monthly surveys looking at the impact of lionfish on reef fish populations. I also got the chance to act as a teaching assistant for the lionfish research class at The Island School and teach students the scientific method and how to investigate ecological questions. After my internship I decided to take the opportunity to come back to CEI as a research assistant. I still do some of the same things (data collection in the field), but I also gained many new responsibilities. I moved from a teaching assistant to a full-blown co-teacher for the lionfish research class. I am also conducting an independent project on the topic of my choosing to investigate something about the marine world that surrounds us here at CEI.

My name is Mike Piersiak and I came to CEI last semester as an intern with the Shark Research and Conservation Program. My main focus was to gain as much knowledge as I could regarding not only my specific area of interest (sharks), but also knowledge about the other research projects taking place here. Perhaps the biggest benefit of being an intern was learning about life as a field biologist outside the confines of a classroom and benefiting from the experienced staff members.

After my internship expired, I chose to stay on as a research assistant and assume more responsibilities than the more transient, short term ones I had as an intern. As I am hoping to perform a master’s thesis in the next year or so, I found that the role of a research assistant here is much more similar to that of a masters student in the responsibilities as well as the experience gained. I am no longer associated only with the shark program, but rather, I will be performing my own project as well as mentoring interns through their time here. Assuming more long-term responsibility as well as managing my own personal project are things that I know will benefit me when I begin applying to a masters program and writing my research proposal.

Aside from the academic benefits of my role as a research assistant, I also teach at The Island School as well as mentor interns throughout their time here. I am the co-advisor of the lemon shark research project and I teach a research class twice a week that includes field sampling, data analysis, and presentation of findings at the end of the semester. Mentoring interns involves helping develop a group project (which will be undertaken over the course of their time here), running weekly intern meetings, helping to acclimate them to the institute upon arrival, and overall well-being over the course of their stay here.