Spreading my wings: my summer researching penguin behaviour in northern Germany
My first steps in the field of marine biology started with volunteering at my local aquarium, learning about and eventually caring for the incredible creatures that call the ocean home. I took intern positions and summer jobs at aquariums, feeding animals, building habitats, and cleaning equipment. However, after a co-op position with the science branch of Fisheries and Oceans Canada last year, I realized I loved the learning and challenges that come with research. I wanted to get more involved in that kind of work.
This summer, I have the privilege of combining these experiences through a research position with the Marine Science Centre in Rostock, Germany. The position is part of RISE Germany, a program run by the German Academic Exchange Service, which places Canadian, American, Irish and UK undergraduates in STEM fields in summer internships with researchers in Germany.
For my project, I will be assisting a German Masters student with her research on hearing in Humboldt penguins. Anthropogenic noise in marine environments has already been identified as a possible threat to marine mammals. Understanding how penguins experience the underwater soundscape is important for establishing how marine birds could be affected by human activity such as ship traffic. Like other projects at the Marine Science Centre in Rostock, we will only use positive reinforcement methods when conducting research with the penguins.
While the research takes place in English, the program encourages interns to learn German during their placement. I was fortunate to be able to take part in a two-week language course prior to beginning my internship. This allowed me to work on my German and learn alongside other students taking part in the program. The chance to meet so many creative and dynamic students from such different academic backgrounds has been inspiring to say the least!