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Student Profile: Gabrielle Lopez

Gabrille Lopez on the Salish Sea

Gabrille Lopez is currently a senior Marine Vertebrate Biology undergraduate major in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. Gabrille spent summer 2012 on a NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) project at the University of Alaska Southeast (Juneau campus) working with former SoMAS faculty member Dr. Heidi Pearson. She is surveying whale watch passengers to assess their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about whales and whale-watching. The ultimate goal is to see what effects seeing whales in the wild has on whale watchers’ overall environmental and conservation feelings.

Prior to spending the summer in Alaska, Gabrille was selected for the Multicultural Initiative for Marine Science Undergraduate Program (MIMSUP) at Western Washington University, a NSF-funded program aimed at increasing diversity in the next generation of marine scientists and located at the Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes, Washington. While there, she analyzed 20 years of data from the Shannon Point Marine Center database investigating factors that influence the physical properties of the Salish Sea. The Salish Sea is the island-choked waterway located between Canada’s Vancouver Island and the northwest coast of Washington State. In fall 2011, Gabrille also participated in two internships on Long Island – with Stony Brook’s Undergraduate College of Global Studies and with the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

Gabrille at a poster presentation on her research on whale-watcher attitudes.

Why did you choose Stony Brook and the Marine Vertebrate Biology program?

I visited Stony Brook during my high school years. It was exactly what I thought a college should be like. The marine vertebrate biology program seemed to offer a more concrete education in the biology aspect of our marine environment (which is what I am most interested in). The marine mammal class is what really drew me in, though.

You have been very busy in the last 12 months in various internships. Which one has been your favorite?

I would have to go with MIMSUP. The advisors, fellow students and experience were just amazing. I made lifelong friends and connections from that program.

What are you planning to do once you graduate, and how has your time at SoMAS prepared you?

Heidi (Pearson) and I are currently working to continue our summer study, but expanding it to include whale-watch passengers in Alaska and Hawaii. My time at SoMAS has helped me in branching out to people of various backgrounds and experiences and expanding my horizons.


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