Biological Oceanography master’s student awarded prestigious fellowship

Biological oceanography masters student, Xiao Ma, was recently awarded a prestigious fellowship from the Save our Bay, Air and Canals/Waterways (SOBAC) Endowed Fellowship Fund. She will receive over $1,300 for her winning essay, “Copepods: A Crucial Component of Marine Environmental Protection.”

What inspired you to study biological oceanography?

I grew up on the Tibetan Plateau, home to a vast desert. I was amazed when I saw the sea for the first time at age ten. Since then, I have been curious about the majestic diversity of marine life and wanted to probe further into the ocean to help solve the mysteries of our own planet. In September 2008, I enrolled in the department of Oceanography at Xiamen University, where I studied marine science and further developed my interest in pursuing my master’s degree in biological oceanography.

Why did you choose to pursue your research at Florida Tech?

I chose Florida Tech mostly because of Dr. Kevin Johnson. He is an expert on plankton which is what I am interested in and I wanted to work with him on plankton ecology research.

Tell us a little bit more about why you are studying copepod behavior under different lights?

Light is an important cue for zooplankton vertical migrations, including copepod migrations, a major food source for many marine organisms. Copepods often exhibit behaviors in response to light which are integral to their migratory patterns. What I am interested in is the relationship between their photoresponse and their habitat selection, which means whether copepod photoresponses could match both the available light spectrum and the light intensity in their habitats. This migration has the potential to affect all ocean organisms.

What advice would you offer prospective students thinking about studying biological oceanography?

The only advice I will give is do not study biological oceanography unless you really love it, because it needs years of concentrated effort but may not bring you as much money as other majors like engineering or business.

What is a little known fact about yourself?

I have a lot of hobbies. I like playing piano and sketching, and I used to be a member of a chorus team.

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