Princeton University’s Department of Ecology Hosts Six MCCC Natural Sciences Students for an Ecology Workshop

West Windsor – October 7-9, 2022 was an educational and exciting weekend for six science students at Mercer County Community College. Biology majors Dasha Raywood, Cinder Denny, and Jasmine Queveda, plant science majors Naomi Head and Elizabeth Reyes, and health science and mathematics major Shaquana Powell were selected to accompany Dr. Jonathan Levine of Princeton University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in grant-funded field ecology workshop on Sedge Island in New Jersey.

The students spent three days and two nights with Dr. Levine and other members of the Princeton lab studying plant ecology and environmental monitoring methods in dune, marsh, and forest ecosystems on Sedge Island, a pristine wetland near Island Beach State Park in Ocean County.

Laura Blinderman, professor of biology at Mercer County Community College, and other science faculty helped identify Mercer students for the workshop.

“Sedge Island is a salt marsh ecosystem that is home to a large colony of nesting terns and a wide variety of sedges, crustaceans and birds,” Blinderman said. “This was the first time that the Department of Ecology at Princeton had provided this opportunity to Mercer students, and it was an amazing experience for the students,” she said.

The goal of the trip was to allow students to explore field research firsthand and develop specific skills that science majors could use as a springboard to obtain summer internships and be considered for highly competitive national undergraduate research programs.

The students were housed at the Sedge Island Environmental Center when they were not exploring the island and its surroundings.

Naomi Head of Putney, Vermont was one of the workshop participants. She is a freshman at MCCC studying plants.

“I want to pursue sustainability through plants,” Head said. “There were a few students at the workshop so it was really useful to talk to them and learn how research works at this level and what the academic pathways are like.”

Head was also impressed by the people who ran Sedge Island.

“It was educational career-wise, but also the people who ran Sedge were super knowledgeable about the ecology of the island,” Head said. “It was super fun.”

Head recommends that new and incoming Mercer students look for opportunities like the Sedge Island workshop.

“It really helped me understand what my options were,” she said.

Another science student, Shaquana Powell, also enjoyed her time at Sedge Island. Powell studied health sciences and mathematics at MCCC.

“I had a wonderful experience attending the Sage Island Ecology Workshop,” Powell said. “All science majors at Mercer can benefit from the workshop.”

Students learned about the opportunity to participate through their science classes and via email. Transport, accommodation, training and food where everything is included.

“We hope to build a bridge with the Princeton lab for future opportunities,” Blinderman said.

For more information about science majors at Mercer County Community College, visit this link.

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Mercer County Community College student Shaquana Powell was one of six science students who participated in the Princeton University-sponsored October Weekend at Sage Island off Island Beach State Park in Ocean County, New Jersey. (Photo courtesy of Shaquana Powell)

BiologyScience Boating

During the workshop, students also learned about off-island ecosystems. (Photo courtesy of Shaquana Powell)

scientific trio

There was still time for selfies. (Photo courtesy of Shaquana Powell)

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The fiddler crab is just one of the many inhabitants of marshes. (Photo courtesy of Shaquana Powell)

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