Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ask A Grad Student: Lauren Divine

Summer is ending and with it ends the summer survey season. (Luckily for me I'm heading out on a fall survey, so I still have sea days to look forward to!) Fisheries graduate student Lauren Divine went to sea last year and wanted to share her experience with everyone, especially those of you who haven't had the pleasure of taking a "cruise" in the Chukchi Sea!

Age: 27

Degree: BS Wildlife and Fisheries Management, MS Biology, PhD Marine Biology (in progress)

Current City: Fairbanks! Golden Heart City!

1. Describe your project, in 4 sentences or less.

My project looks at snow crab in the Alaskan Arctic (Chukchi and Beaufort Seas). I am interested in how they fit into the benthic food webs in this region because they link lower trophic levels to more charismatic species such as walruses, seals, and whales. I'm also interested in how many snow crabs are actually in the Arctic, where they can be found, and how big they are. Finally, I hope to look at the likelihood of a fishery for snow crabs opening in the Arctic under future climate changes and fisheries management scenarios. BOOM.

an arctic snow crab! AHHHHHH!

2. You recently got to work in the Chukchi Sea (I am trying to contain my jealousy). What was the biggest challenge you had working on deck, and how did you overcome it? What was the best/craziest/most amazing thing you saw out there?

The biggest challenge for me wasn't the time on deck, it was the massive amount of time that we spent inside the boat. I was expecting to be on deck a lot more than we actually were because the catches were small, so adjusting to the large amount of time on a small vessel was the most difficult. Getting out on deck was the highlight of the day! I also battled sea sickness for about a week and a half, so getting out in the fresh air helped me a lot.

icy fresh air!

The most amazing thing I saw was a polar bear on a huge floating ice berg. We had been floating close to the ice edge for a few days and seen lots of bergs, but this one had an exceptional guest!

oh hi!
(This image was taken as an observation of a marine mammal sighting aboard a NOAA chartered vessel for scientific research. This animal was well past the required distance from the vessel at all times and did not appear to show any reaction to the presence of the vessel. The vessel proceeded at a safe speed until the animal was out of sight.)

"I'm just chillin' out" - polar bear

3. Why Alaska? What's your favorite thing about Fairbanks?

I was coming out of a master's program in Statesboro, GA and was really looking for a challenge and an adventure. This fit what I was looking for! My favorite thing about Fairbanks is the extreme light during the summer! I am outside all the time, the gardening is fantastic, and everything about the summers is worth suffering through the winters for!

live life Alaskan!

4. You're a mom - how do you juggle classes, research, and parenting? Was it a difficult choice to get your Master's degree as a mother, or was it a pretty straight forward, go get 'em plan?

I had Brynn as an undergraduate. I was fortunate enough to get to take a year off after graduation and spend time with her (while guiding rock climbing trips!). I decided to get a master's because I had not been having much luck with the job market after graduating with my BS, so the choice was kind of made for me. The master's program was certainly a learning trial. I am very thankful that I have a good support system in place. If an emergency comes up, I can always count on a friend or family member to take Brynn for a while. If Brynn has an emergency, I have the flexibility in my schedule to take care of it and catch up on my work later. I have been known to tote Brynn to a meeting or sit through the occasional lecture with my little side-kick watching iPad cartoons with headphones on! I think everyone goes through their own challenges during graduate school, mine are certainly not unique. One thing I will say, however, is that I have learned how to be very productive with the time that I have; it is what you make of it after all, right?

eeeeh - baby crab!
(it's almost as cute as Brynn)

5. What is your favorite piece of crab paraphernalia?

Good question. I am certainly lacking in this department... I don't own crab jewelry or clothing. I do have a head scarf that is pink and has tiny blue crabs and corals on it. That is probably my favorite, along with my "Snow Crab Love" mug! Thanks Molly! :)

You're welcome, Lauren! Thanks for sharing your photos!