Canadian Associates of BIOS Celebrates 45 Years

Aleksandra Crossman (right), Carolina Limido (left), and Alexis Savard-Drouin are part of BIOS’s fall 2020 intern cohort. All three undergraduate students are participating in fully-funded 12-week research internships through the Canadian Associates of BIOS (CABIOS), which was established to provide support for Canadian students, as well as students studying at Canadian universities and colleges, to participate in BIOS educational programs and research internships.

The Canadian Associates of BIOS (CABIOS) was founded in 1975 by the late Dr. Earlston Doe, a former BIOS Life Trustee and Bermuda-born Canadian oceanographer to honor the memory of his youngest son Learmont “Leary” Doe. The program was established to provide support for Canadian students, as well as students studying at Canadian universities and colleges, to participate in BIOS educational programs and research internships.

In the decades following its formation, CABIOS has received support from a variety of individuals, businesses, and organizations, including several generous donations, that have allowed the fund to grow. This has allowed more than 250 students to further their university-level education at BIOS, either by participating in summer courses or a fully-funded 12-week research internship under the mentorship of a BIOS scientist.

This year, although the fall semester courses were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BIOS was able to safely open its campus for internships. This year’s group of 14 fall interns included three students funded through CABIOS: Aleksandra Crossman, Carolina Limido, and Alexis Savard-Drouin. We had the opportunity to sit down with each student and learn more about their academic backgrounds and research projects at BIOS.

Aleksandra Crossman
Aleksandra Crossman is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in marine biology at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. She heard about the CABIOS internship through an email that her university sent around over the summer and decided to apply, feeling that it was a great opportunity to learn about warm water ecosystems, and coral reefs in particular.

During the summer between her second and third year of university, she worked for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada removing the ear bones, or otoliths, from bluefin tuna and preparing them for carbon analysis, which confirms the age of the fish. Crossman also spent two weeks on a Coast Guard vessel conducting a trawl survey in the North Atlantic Ocean from Halifax to Cape Breton, where she assisted in identifying all of the marine organisms brought to the surface in the trawl net.

At BIOS, Crossman is working with senior scientist and reef ecologist Eric Hochberg on a benthic mapping project for the BELCO (the Bermuda Electric Light Company). BELCO is interested in laying cable between Coney Island and Kindley Field Road (by the L.F. Wade International Airport) and has asked for an environmental assessment to be conducted to map the ocean floor, as well as identify the benthic habitats, along the proposed cable path. Crossman and Hochberg will be using photomosaics and artificial intelligence to obtain the percent cover of various habitat types (e.g., sand, coral, rock). The results of this project will be used by BELCO to plan a cable path with the fewest environmental impacts.

Carolina Limido
Carolina Limido is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in marine biology, with a minor in oceanography, at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. When her university sent around an email with information about CABIOS internships, she decided to apply to gain first-hand experience with the scientific research process. Having an interest in the field of chemical oceanography, she requested to work with assistant scientist and biogeochemical oceanographer Damian Grundle.

Limido’s project focuses on nitrous oxide production in mangrove sediments. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential about 300 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2) over a period of 100 years. In mangrove forests, N2O is produced by bacteria and microbial processes within the soils and surface waters and released to the atmosphere. However, there are still gaps in knowledge regarding the role that mangroves play in global N2O budgets. To provide a better estimate, Limido and Grundle are taking sediment cores from mangrove forests in Bermuda, incubating them in flumes, and using microsensors to measure how much N2O is being produced.

Alexis Savard-Drouin
Alexis Savard-Drouin is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in marine biology, with a minor in chemistry, at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. He heard about CABIOS when a fellow Dalhousie student, who was also a 2019 CABIOS fall semester student, gave a presentation at a Dalhousie Association of Marine Biology Students meeting. Impressed by her positive comments, Savard-Drouin applied for the 2020 BIOS fall semester course through CABIOS. When the fall semester course was cancelled, Andrew Peters, director of university programs at BIOS, offered Savard-Drouin a CABIOS internship with assistant scientist and marine benthic ecologist Yvonne Sawall. Savard-Drouin accepted, seeing this as a great opportunity to gain additional experience and make connections in the field of tropical marine biology.

Savard-Drouin also has a background in benthic ecology, having participated in a program called Integrated Science during his first year at Dalhousie. This yearlong program allows students to spend the second semester conducting research with an advisor, and Savard-Drouin’s research focused on deep-sea sponges. Specifically, he worked with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada developing a technical report on a sponge that was an indicator species, meaning that its presence indicated a higher level of biodiversity within the ecosystem. His work resulted in co-authorship on a paper published during his second year of undergraduate study.

At BIOS, his project focuses on coral heterotrophy, which is the feeding mechanism of corals whereby the coral animal engulfs particles from the water. Typically, corals obtain the bulk of their energy from photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, that live within their tissues. However, corals can also actively feed to gain nutrients, which they do by capturing planktonic particles with their tentacles, mucous, or by discharging their stinging cells, called nematocysts, into the water. Traditional methods of quantifying coral heterotrophy involve destroying the living coral, so Savard-Drouin and Sawall are working to find a nondestructive method that involves fluorescent dye and video analysis.

Over the course of their internships, the CABIOS interns participate in a series of activities that provide them with opportunities to practice scientific writing, data organization and analysis, and public speaking. In the first eight weeks, they give two short (10 minutes each) presentations that serve to introduce their research projects and provide an overview of the research methods being used. In the last month of their internship, they take part in a virtual poster session—similar to the poster session at a professional scientific conference—where they present their research in the form of a digital poster to BIOS faculty and staff, followed by a Q&A session. Then, two weeks later, they each give a 15-minute talk about their research project and results in front of an audience.

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