Student Experience

During the summer of 2012, junior biology majors Hilary Frandsen and Brent Bennett studied at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina, thanks to Principia’s membership in Duke’s Marine Sciences Education Consortium (MSEC).

Hilary’s summer included a Marine Mammals class, while Brent took Marine Ecology. Both students completed Conservation Biology and Policy. “We studied whales and bottle-nosed dolphins, and saw them frequently during our boat explorations,” Hilary says. “We constructed hydrophones for acoustic recordings and learned the structure of these amazing marine mammals. We even had the opportunity to dissect a six-foot pygmy sperm whale that had been stranded nearby.”

“I learned so much about designing and implementing scientific experiments,” Brent notes. “For example, we designed an experiment about crabs, and I found that my understanding of statistics grew by leaps and bounds because I saw real-life scenarios for interpreting data.”

Hilary and Brent also attended a speaker series that included renowned authors and scholars. “The speakers were outstanding and provided an excellent framework for further discussion,” Hilary says.

The lab’s location on the “Crystal Coast” of North Carolina offered Hilary and Brent opportunities to sail, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, and visit nearby Shackleford Island to view wild horses. Hilary also went scuba diving. But it wasn’t all play by any means. “We worked hard!” she exclaims. Brent confirms that, noting that he felt well prepared: “My biology, chemistry, environmental science, and math classes at Prin were outstanding preparation for MSEC.” 

Are Hilary and Brent glad they went to MSEC? Absolutely! “I appreciate that Professors Scott Eckert and Chrissy McAllister encouraged us to attend,” Hilary notes. “It was a great continuation of the field study I’ve had at Prin.”

“It just goes to show,” Brent concludes, “that no matter what your area of interest, Principia will find a way to work with you and make something happen.”

Excerpted from the article "Hands-On Marine Science Study" by Heather Shotwell on PrincipiaWire. Photo by Brent Bennett.