Dissertation projects 2013-14: Mel Evans on coral reef disturbance in Hawaii

In this series we’ll be showcasing the research projects carried out by our final year undergraduate students. The Dissertation is an excellent opportunity to become part of the scientific community, translating all the skills and knowledge into the culmination of a good science degree. We’re committed to research as a central part of Biosciences courses at the University of Gloucestershire, so that students not only ‘have’ biological knowledge they’ve become part of the process by which new scientific knowledge is acquired. In other words, their degree means they’re ‘real’ scientists.

Our first post is from Mel Evans – if you’d like to post about your dissertation, get in touch with Matt Wood on mjwood@glos.ac.uk

“For my dissertation project I travelled to Hawaii to obtain data on coral damage caused by visitors to a fringing reef. I spent six weeks as an intern at the Marine Institute on Coconut Island, and was able to collect data for a month of that period, snorkelling every other day to assess new damage caused to common species of coral. Collecting dissertation data over the summer meant I could get a head start and take off some of the pressure in my final year, and doing it in another country enabled me to experience how different institutions across the world perform research.

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It felt great to discover the relevance of my first two years at uni even in the USA, as scientific discussions frequently covered the skills learnt in the modules I have taken. And days off were obviously a pleasure, giving me a chance to travel around Hawaii and enjoy drastically different ecosystems from the UK. However, collecting data abroad also meant I had to maximize the use of my time and write every detail down, knowing that I would be unable to go back and retrieve more information after.

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In addition to data collection I also had the time to help out with tours, teaching visitors about the research that takes place on Coconut Island, and providing conservation education with the help of touch tanks and shark pools. In the afternoons I was able to assist with exciting new PhD research on the effects of multiple aspects of climate change on different coral species, giving me hands on experience of research on a larger scale than I was used to. This offered huge benefits, enabling me to make contacts with advisors that take on students at a postgraduate level.

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Choosing to go abroad for my dissertation project has given me more opportunities for future study, and provided the experiences necessary to clarify what I do and don’t want from a career in science. I would recommend it to anybody who doesn’t mind being scared by their bank balance when they get back!

Mel Evans – Final year student (BSc Animal Biology course)

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