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Soil and Water Summer Experience – Monica Schul

The Soil and Water Sciences Department is offering students the chance to blog about their summer experience. The students enrolled in one of three courses over the summer, for which they received credit: SWS 4905-Individual Work, SWS 4911-Supervised Research in Soil and Water Science, and SWS 4941 Practical Work Experience. This is Monica Schul’s summer internship:

woman scuba diving to examine coral

Monica Schul scuba diving to asses the health of nursery coral outplants in Little Cayman. (photo provided)

My name is Monica Schul and I am a double major focusing on marine science and biotechnology. This summer, I worked in the lab of Dr. Julie Meyer with Dr. Anya Brown. We were researching coral microbial communities.

Currently, we are researching the effects of White Band Disease in Acropora cervicornis and how it changes coral microbial communities. We perform this study by collecting mucous samples from A. cervicornis. Then we do genetic sequencing of the 16S rDNA to identify individual bacterial groups associated with diseased and healthy corals.

College student in lab working on data collection

Monica Schul working up coral mucous samples in Little Cayman to genetically sequence at a later date on UF campus. (photo provided)

I have had a wonderful experience working with Dr. Brown, who has been a fantastic mentor and teacher. I have enjoyed gaining the experience to further improve my fieldwork and microscopy skills. In the field, I have become more comfortable working and collecting samples as an AAUS Science Diver. While in the lab, I have learned the process of genetically sequencing samples and the use of statistical computer programing language R to analyze the data.

Having taken both marine science courses and microbiology-type courses, I felt I had a great foundation of knowledge to build upon and incorporate into our research. Because of this, I was able to ask more informed questions and be more involved in the research. Although my undergraduate courses provide me with a great basis of knowledge, I still have many things to learn from being involved in a research rigorous profession. I find learning new programming languages and statistical analysis to be particularly challenging when it comes to analyzing microbial data. However, I am excited to develop the skills that I have learned and encourage others to continue to build upon their knowledge.