In which I explain my interest in science and love of marine laboratories
by Sarah Gillig Sunu -- October 5th, 2012

It’s great to be at Duke again!

I may not have gone to undergrad here, but Duke and I go pretty far back.  My early experiences at the Duke Marine Lab sparked my interest in science and shaped my academic career (before that, I had planned to be an actress…or a politician…or a librarian).  That’s a big part of why I’m here at Duke again, at the Nicholas School of the Environment working on getting my Master of Environmental Management degree with a concentration in Coastal Environmental Management.

Way back in the tenth grade, I was part of Duke’s Talent Identification Program (TIP), and I had decided to go to the Duke Marine Lab to learn about Marine Invertebrate Zoology (basically, clams and whelks and worms and crabs and jellyfish—anything that lived in the ocean and didn’t have a backbone).  I had been “unschooled” for about seven years at that point, and had never taken a science class before.  I was a little nervous, but I really liked the ocean and I figured if I didn’t like the science, I would only have to suffer through it for three weeks. I could handle anything for three weeks, right?

Well, I loved it. I loved going out in the field almost every day, I loved the animals we found, and I loved the Marine Lab. I decided then and there that this was what I wanted to be doing—exploring the world around me, particularly the ocean, and learning about how we can take better care of it.  In the end, the thing that was hardest for me to handle was leaving.

That summer was the beginning of what became a pattern of marine lab life for me. Since then, I’ve either taken courses or worked at (sometimes taken courses and worked at) the Shoals Marine Laboratory (Cornell/UNH) on Appledore Island in Maine;  the Woods Hole Science Aquarium in Woods Hole, Massachusetts;  Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina — again (this time during my sophomore year of college);  the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and most recently, Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts.

There’s something about marine labs that makes them very special.  Maybe it’s because they’re usually remote, on an island or a peninsula, so that people come together more.  Maybe it’s because you’re at the mercy of the weather and the tides, and you have to rely on others for help to get your field work done before the tide turns or the wind picks up.  Maybe it’s because you’re living right there, in the place you are studying—rather than spending all your time pipetting things into beakers under sterile conditions (though you might spend some of your time doing that). Maybe it’s just that marine labs draw a certain kind of person to them, the kind of person who asks how science can be used to benefit both humans and the environment. Whatever it is, I love marine labs, and I’m so excited to be going back to Beaufort next year!

Durham is great, but I miss the ocean, so I’ll be including the tides for the nearest relevant body of water in each post, based on the predictions from NOAA’s Tides and Currents webpage. After all, what would a tidebook be without the tides?

Tides for Friday, October 5th, 2012, Beaufort , NC

Low: 5:20 AM, 0.66 ft

High: 12:01 PM, 3.5 ft

Low: 6:22 PM, 0.93 ft.



1 Comment

  1. Heidi
    Oct 6, 2012

    Hi Sarah! Cool info, and I love the hula hoop picture! I’m glad you’re enjoying your studies and hope that life in NC is good to you and Steve!

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