Duke University student India Haber was an SDRP intern during 2021. Here, in her words, was what her experience was like.

I’ve always been lucky in the sense that, from a young age, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life immersed in marine science. The ocean has played a major role in my life and I’ve always felt a connection with the sea. My mother was born in the Philippines and grew up in Hawaii, where I spent many happy summers playing in the waves and exploring the ocean’s splendor.

Despite my fascination with the ocean, I didn’t know where my passion for marine sciences would take me until I started college. After my first formal marine biology class, I was hooked on research. I’ve since spent three semesters at Duke’s marine lab conducting research and taking as many marine science classes as I could jam into my schedule. During my time at the Duke Marine Lab, I developed a strong interest in marine mammals and bioacoustics. As a result, I focused my search for a summer 2021 internship on programs with an emphasis on marine mammals and acoustics.

I was extremely fortunate to be offered an internship at SDRP. I was especially ecstatic because most of my classes and two of my advisors, Doug Nowacek and Andy Read, had mentioned the incredible research accomplished at SDRP. Doug and Andy always spoke fondly about the time they had spent in Sarasota and now I understand why!

Working at SDRP was both a major milestone in my academic career and a turning point for my future plans. Over the course of the three months I spent in Sarasota, I learned how good science is done. The staff at SDRP are wonderful mentors whose patience and passion guide their teaching. Not only did I learn about and practice important marine science tools, such as Photo-ID, I also developed some niche skills, like handling a hardhead catfish.

Spending the majority of the summer on survey boats helped me to dramatically improve my photography skills and advanced my knowledge of dolphin behavior. And while everyone loves observing the dolphins, days spent purse-seining for dolphin prey were among my favorites of the summer.

Some of my most important takeaways from SDRP came from simply observing lab interactions. Being in a lab setting every day taught me about the critical role funding plays in science and how it drives research. Though it may not be the most thrilling lesson, it is certainly a vital one for me to understand, especially as I consider graduate school and a career in marine science.

While I did sustain some sunburns and toadfish bites, SDRP helped me develop important field and lab skills that made me a much stronger marine mammal researcher. During my time in Sarasota, I developed meaningful relationships that I will carry with me into the next chapter of my career. I’m very grateful to everyone at SDRP and thankful for the opportunity to take part in a truly impactful and impressive project!