By Deb Artz

How does a 3rd year ecology major end up interning as a scuba diver off the small South Pacific island of Moorea during her summer of 2011?

Katrina Munsterman grew up near the beaches of Ketchikan, Alaska and was always interested in the outdoors. Her parents work for the National Park and Forest Service and her high-school involvement with Student Conservation Association (SCA)  contributed to her spirit of adventure. She spent summers doing trail work and ecological conservation at various parks across the country and Canada.

She heard about the Moorea Coral Reef Long Term Ecological Research Lab as a UCSB freshman and began talking with Russ Schmitt and Sally Holbrook, the lead professors of the lab at UCSB.  She then began working in a related lab, spending hours sorting invertebrates through a microscope.

She obtained her SCUBA diving certification through UCSB Recreational Center and spent her  sophomore spring break in a 100 hour long AAUS Scientific Diving Course through UCSB’s Health and Safety Program. After that, she become a certified scientific and rescue diver. All of these experiences helped make her a competitive applicant in March 2011 resulting in being chosen as one of the lucky four interns to work  as a assistant to Sammy Davis, an EEMB PhD student studying coral reef ecology.

“I had an AMAZING summer experience where I was scuba diving seven days a week for three months, setting up field experiments, surveying sites around the island, and living in paradise. I got certified as a dive master in Moorea and am now able to lead divers commercially on charter boats, and at resorts. I learned more about ecology and field study from my internship than any class I have taken, as well as hands on experience and insight into the work of a graduate student. I hope to continue marine ecology research, possibly doing my research project this summer, keep diving, and asking questions about the natural world.” – Katrina Munsterman