Frances Bozak’s love of aquatic wildlife started, of all places, indoors.
As a fifth grader, Frances was intrigued by television shows on life underwater. Encouraging her, Frances’ mother got her videos of sea turtles. They lived in Avon, Ohio, so trips to Lake Erie with her family and fishing trips with her uncle were frequent.
But it was her experience outdoors during a one-week introductory course at Stone Laboratory that has cemented her determination to pursue a career in marine science.
Last year, her senior year at Avon High School, Frances was accepted to Coastal Carolina University, which has the largest undergraduate marine science program on the East Coast. Online research about opportunities to study marine science in Ohio led Frances’ mother to Stone Laboratory.
After she visited Gibraltar for a tour of the lab, Frances decided to take a summer class before she left for her freshman year at the school in Conway, S.C., just outside Myrtle Beach.
What she learned in Stone Lab’s Introduction to Biological Studies – Aquatic Biology has already given her a leg-up
during her freshman year at CCU.
“I took marine science and biology this year,” Frances says. “We learned about phylum, class, order and families at Stone Lab, and I got to use that information in my marine science class. I felt like I had more experience.”
The week-long course, taught by Stone Lab and Ohio Sea Grant Research Coordinator Justin Chaffin, introduces students to the components of freshwater ecosystems, including invertebrates, plants and fish and the structural components of aquatic systems. Students spend time aboard the lab’s research vessels and take day-long field trips to nearby watersheds.
“I thought it was so cool because we got to do a lot of hands-on experience collecting our own fish, trawling and catching baby walleye and white bass,” Frances says. “We got to learn how to identify the fish and know what kinds are which and learn how to identify insect larvae.”
One of Frances’ favorite activities from the week was a trip to the Vermillion River, collecting samples of the water and fish and taking them back to the lab for analysis.
“The things we were testing were things that we went out and caught on our own. I liked that,” Frances says.
She roomed with three other teens about her same age and said that even the dormitory experience was a positive one.
“If we were studying and wanted it quiet, everyone would respect everyone else’s wishes,” she says.
After spending time at Stone Lab, Frances can more clearly see her future in marine science, a field which includes aspects of biology, chemistry, geology, physical oceanography and atmospheric science.
“It helped show what people actually do with marine science,” Frances says. “It wasn’t just sitting in a classroom all the time.”
The course earned her two college credits toward her bachelor’s degree from CCU, and Frances says she’s considering taking another Stone Lab course next summer.
“It was so much fun and helped me get a jump start on my education,” she says.