Sarah Merolla '14 monitors reef fish off Guana Island, British Virgin Islands
Hometown: Hillsborough, NJ
Major: Marine Biology
How’d you like to go scuba diving in the tropics for a science class? At a school that’s as big on marine science as URI is, it’s not out of the question. Of course, taking notes underwater is no easy task, but URI junior Sarah Merolla mastered that skill and more while diving on a restored coral reef in the British Virgin Islands, all thanks to a Rhode Island Summer Undergraduates Research Fellowship she received last summer.
Every morning and afternoon for three weeks, she plunged into the ocean blue off Guana Island to count fish and observe their habitat. The reefs there died decades ago from a combination of warming waters, boat damage, and natural causes. Other students have been restoring the reef with Elkhorn coral, and Sarah’s job was to monitor the reef to see if fish have returned. The good news is, they are – and that means the reef is making a comeback.
The hands-on work was thrilling for Sarah. “I’m a new diver, so being in the water every day gave me great experience in how to do research and take notes under water. Seeing the animals every day was amazing.”
No surprise, this aspiring marine biologist is a superstar – treasurer of the URI Marine Science Society, a member of the URI Wildlife Society, and recipient of the Hollings Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which comes with a paid summer internship at any NOAA research lab in the country. If you’re into marine research, don’t think these opportunities aren’t available to you – last year URI students earned more Hollings Scholarships than any other institution in the country.
Sarah’s still a little fuzzy about her exact future plans, but she knows “whatever I do, as long as I’m working with marine animals, I’ll be happy.”