Sarah Horn ’13 transformed her passion for science and marine life into an Undergraduate Research project, this year. From conception to presentation Horn was knee-deep in sea turtle research. After completing her research and present her work at a national meeting, I contacted Horn to learn more about her experience and plans for the future.
What is your major?
I am currently a senior studying Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston.
How did you get started in Undergraduate Research?
I got involved in undergraduate research with the guidance of Dr. Kimberly Reich. I knew I wanted to do a 491 research course with her as my advisor, and wanted the project to relate to human dimensions of sea turtle conservation. After solidifying my project idea, Dr. Reich informed me of the Undergraduate Research Scholars program, and I knew I wanted to participate.
What is your current research studying?
This project is a survey based study to assess the knowledge of Galveston Island beachgoers to the presence of and threats to sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. We were specifically interested in: 1) participant awareness of threats to sea turtles in various life history stages and habitats; 2) people understanding their own role in mitigating these threats; and 3) their willingness to support programs that: work to protect and conserve sea turtle habitats, promote education and outreach, and promote legislation designed to facilitate the conservation of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. Surveys were conducted from July to October of 2012. The results of this survey identified which demographics of individuals to keep in mind when refining outreach materials. Results also identified where to concentrate outreach material in order to reach the largest number of people. Finally, the results clarified what visitors and residents are unaware of, thus providing a foundation of topics and concepts for future education and outreach.
How has this project changed or solidified your views of the importance of Undergraduate Research?
This project has solidified my views on the importance of undergraduate research because it provides students with research experience they can apply to something they are very interested in. Students get to take full responsibility of a project and conduct most of the leg work themselves under the guidance of an experienced advisor. In a way, the project becomes very personal because it is your contribution to the scientific community. The additional experience gained by participating in undergraduate research is very helpful when applying for jobs and graduate school, as well.
Have you presented your research project anywhere?
I was very fortunate to present my project at the 33rd Annual International Sea Turtle Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland, this February. The experience was invaluable. Attending the symposium provided me with the opportunity to present my research within a community with the same interests as myself. I was able to get feedback and advice from researchers from all over the world who have made studying sea turtles their life’s work. By presenting, I felt I was able to make a contribution to sea turtle conservation and to the sea turtle research community. I could not ask for a greater learning experience.
What are your future plans?
I anticipate attending graduate school in the Fall of 2013 studying the human dimensions of conservation and biology. After graduate school, I hope to work for a program that fosters research-based conservation and human dimensions of conservation of marine animals, specifically sea turtles.
Contact: Chrystina Rago, email@example.com