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Northwest Missouri State University


Student Spotlight

Sara Kerner, a recent Northwest graduate interning at Dauphin Sea Lab, studies marsh plants and the grasshoppers grazing there.

Sara Kerner, a recent Northwest graduate interning at Dauphin Sea Lab, studies marsh plants and grazing grasshoppers in Grand Bay, Ala. Kerner also assists with taking samples and helping to protect Dauphin Island's beaches, below.

Aug. 3, 2010

Northwest graduate takes love for environment to Gulf Coast

By: Dillon Martin, Media Relations Specialist Intern

Kerner also assists with taking samples and helping to protect Dauphin Island's beaches.

Kerner also assists with taking samples and helping to protect Dauphin Island's beaches.

MARYVILLE, Mo. - Sara Kerner has always been interested in the ocean's underwater environment. This summer, Kerner, who graduated from Northwest in May with a bachelor of science in marine biology, took her love for the environment to one of the country's most abundant ecosystems.

Kerner, of Tecumseh, Neb., is interning at Dauphin Island Sea Lab where she is studying ecosystems along the Gulf Coast. Kerner said she discovered her passion for marine biology when she traveled overseas. She attended Northwest because it offered a marine biology degree.

"I was always curious of what lies beneath the ocean surface," Kerner said. "It became a passion when I had the opportunity to travel overseas to Australia and snorkel in the Coral Sea to view a portion of the Great Barrier Reef."

Dauphin Island is a barrier island three miles off the shore of Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico. The sea lab is a two-story facility located on the east side of the island, where workers research manatee studies, fisheries and marine ecology.

Kerner, who works in the ecosystems lab, said her internship has been challenging and competitive. She started the internship in May and will complete it in December.

"This internship mainly focuses on ecosystems throughout the Gulf Coast," Kerner said. "I have become well aware of the local flora and fauna, as well as marsh environments and gained knowledge from current graduate student work. This will highly benefit my future success, it is a great way to gain experience in the field, as well as lab analysis."

Unafraid to dive into unpleasant or routine tasks, Kerner has participated in environmental activities and is committed to helping the environment. Recently, she joined Share the Beach , a group that skims the beach each morning for sea turtle tracks and discourages the public from disturbing them.

Kerner also has participated in efforts associated with the oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

"The sea lab is trying to help any way possible, but I think the biggest part is being able to take samples after this oil spill to compare to previous samples before the oil spill," she said.

She said the oil spill is a sensitive issue and noted the risks involved with exposure to the oil. Workers must wear proper attire and carbon-filtered masks, or they risk suffering symptoms including headaches, dizziness and fatigue.

At Northwest, Kerner credits Dr. Kurt Haberyan, associate professor of biological sciences, and Dr. Ahmed Malkawi, associate professor of chemistry and physics, for their assistance and influence on helping her succeed.

"I took many courses with Dr. Haberyan," Kerner said. "He was so knowledgeable and I learned so much from him. I also gained so much from Dr. Malkawi. They were always available when I needed assistance with papers and homework. When I was a senior they helped guide me toward future plans."

During the internship, Kerner has been looking for job opportunities and graduate programs in the marine biology. She is considering attending the University of Georgia or the Florida Institute of Technology.


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468