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Marine  biology major Amanda Sylvester (class of   2012)

Honors Alumni Spotlight

Marine Biology Major Gets Her Feet Wet in the Field

Marine biology major Amanda Sylvester (class of 2012) discovered a passion for the marine life and the ocean during a trip to Hawaii at age 10. There, she rode on a submarine, snorkeled with sea turtles and stingrays, and encountered a dolphin. Years later, those experiences would lead her to pursue a major in marine biology at NSU.

“These opportunities helped me realize I wanted to work in this field,” said Sylvester, a senior who was part of NSU’s Undergraduate Honors Program; Dual Admission Program; and the Beta chapter of Rho, Rho, Rho, the marine science national honor society.

With its diverse curriculum and hands-on learning in the field, the marine biology major attracts students from “landlocked states and island nations,” said Joshua Feingold, Ph.D., associate professor at NSU.

“The program provides a strong foundation in the basic sciences—such as physics, chemistry, and biology—as well as specialty courses in marine biology, some of which are not found anywhere else in the country. All of our students take classes that enrich the learning process by involving them in laboratory and field experiences.”

Opportunities for research and learning in the field abound for students with a passion and aptitude for the marine sciences.

“Many of our students participate in research, working directly with professors and graduate students,” Feingold said. “Some of these students travel to scientific conferences to present the results of their research.”

Many marine biology graduates continue on an academic path by enrolling in graduate programs around the nation, including NSU’s Oceanographic Center. Others start working right away as science educators or lab and field technicians for the local, state, or federal government.

Sylvester, who plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in marine biology, has participated in college-supported trips to the Everglades, John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, and the Florida Keys. She also conducted a field study at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park with two other students as part of the Coastal Ecology of Southeast Florida course taught by Edward O. Keith, Ph.D., associate professor at NSU.

"The proximity of NSU to several area beaches and the Florida Keys has enabled me to gain a lot of hands-on experience,” said Sylvester, who swam with manatees as a part of the course Biology and Ecology of the Manatee, taught by Feingold and Keith.

"During a period of three days, I snorkeled with manatees and observed their behaviors. It was amazing how the manatees would come right up alongside you. I came away with an enhanced knowledge and appreciation for these creatures.

"These experiences have contributed to a better understanding of marine life as well as moving me closer to my goal of earning my bachelor’s degree,” Sylvester said. “The diversity of courses has allowed me to study a wide array of topics. Since I have not yet determined the specific field of marine biology I will pursue after graduation, gaining education and experience in more than one area of study provides me with greater options."

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