Students thrive as BIOS interns

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  • Eden Richardson

    Eden Richardson

  • Jecar Chapman

    Jecar Chapman

  • Colita Dunlop

    Colita Dunlop

Black band disease was first discovered on the reefs of Belize and Florida in 1972. Since then it has since been found in 26 countries including Bermuda.
In the western Atlantic, BBD most commonly affects massive, slow-growing, reef-building corals, but other types of stony corals and sea fans can be affected. It is caused by the cyanobacteria, although scientists are not yet sure how it spreads. It is worse in Bermuda in the summer months, and wounds to the coral reef caused by a parrot fish bite or a carelessly dropped anchor will often bring on an infection. Symptoms include a black band moving across the coral colony leaving behind white skeleton of coral.
The Coral Reef Ecology and Optics Lab at BIOS is in the middle of a yearly survey of Bermuda’s reefs to ascertain their health and status.
BBD is one of the threats to coral health they monitor. While BBD is present in Bermuda, it appears to be limited to individual coral colonies and does not appear to be an epidemic that threatens entire reefs.

This summer, a special internship at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), aimed at local students, has opened up a world of possibility for 11 local college students considering careers in science.

The eight-week internship, known as the Bermuda programme, has been offered since the 1970s. This year, BIOS has one of their largest groups of students in this programme.

“Coming to BIOS was the best decision because now I know what I like and what I don’t like,” said Colita Dunlop, 19, a Bermuda College student. She wants to study environmental science, but doesn’t yet know what particular area. “I actually volunteered for a few months before I applied for the internship.”

As a volunteer her job was to go through footage taken by scientists of different coral reef sites around the Island, and take snapshots for further analysis.

“The corals were pretty healthy,” she said. “I noticed some had maybe 20 percent dead tissue.”

She said she didn’t notice any black-band disease (BBD), which would indicate degradation of the coral tissue. For her internship, she moved departments to work with Samantha De Putron, who is researching chemical changes in the ocean caused by human pollution.

“My internship project is measuring coral larvae from two different reefs,” she said. “They were two different reef types, one was a patch reef at Bailey’s Bay and the other was a rim reef at North Rock. From previous studies we have found that rim coral larvae were bigger than the patch larvae. Now we are trying to figure out why they differ. It could be because of different environmental conditions on the different reefs.”

This year marks Jecar Chapman’s third as a BIOS intern. The 20-year-old Bermuda College graduate plans to study medicine in the Philippines. His internship project this summer has been looking at how microbes respond to ocean acidification.

“BIOS helps me experience a lot of different scientific techniques,” he said. “Also, I could use the experience I gain from this in my future plans. I don’t know yet what area of medicine I want to go into. I am hoping to come back to Bermuda to work, but we will see how it works out.”

With three years of experience in the laboratory under his belt, he has been able to help new interns learn the ropes.

“Jecar has shown me a lot of the techniques,” said 18-year-old Eden Richardson, a second year student at Bermuda College. “I applied for the internship at BIOS so I could gain some experience working in research. I want to eventually go into medicine, possibly emergency medicine.

“It has been great so far. I have learned a lot in the past three weeks I have been here. It has been exciting to learn all the little things you do to get results. Just seeing that connection between your work and actual tangible data is exciting.”

Miss Richardson has been working on an ongoing project looking at the relationship between recreational boating and sewage contamination.

The 2012 group is one of the largest so far, since the internships started in 1976.

“It is so nice to see these young people engaged and so interested in what they are doing,” said Ali Hochberg, BIOS Education and Development officer. “Hopefully they will go away and tell others and we will get more Bermudians interested in the programme. It is also important to note that there are also volunteer opportunities here, as well as internship options.”

Find out more information about the BIOS Bermuda Programme by e-mailing or see the website or telephone 297-1880.

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Published Jul 25, 2012 at 7:37 am (Updated Jul 25, 2012 at 7:37 am)

Students thrive as BIOS interns

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