Student Learns Important Life's Lessons on Marine Biology Trip

Quinn Kearney’s ’23 love of the water started early in the Ohio River, where every weekend, the family would swim, tube and tool around in their grandmother’s boat. Over the years, her interest progressed and deepened as she is now enrolled in KO’s marine biology class. “I've always wanted to understand what was in the water, how water works, and the habitats in the water,” she said. This summer, Kearney used her Martin Nicholson summer stipend to sail throughout the Caribbean on a catamaran with 12 other students, advancing her scuba diving and advanced sailing certificate.

One feature of the trip was learning about the underwater environment, biodiversity, the ocean's health, and water quality. The students examined different species of shark, fish, lobster, and rays. For Quinn, the trip's highlight included a night dive armed with an underwater flashlight. “It’s really pretty, and it’s fun to do at night because you can’t see where you are going. It’s kind of scary, but it is cool to see the bioluminescent animals and how they light up,” she said.

Although the group learned how to catch leatherback sea turtles - a rapid process that involves spotting the turtle from the surface, diving down quickly, and placing one hand on the top of the turtle's shell and another hand on its bottom - the group was admittedly unsuccessful. “They are incredibly fast swimmers and to get them out of the water is a very quick process,” she said. The students were able to measure the turtles, tag them, and put them back in the water to study their travel patterns and estimate their population in the Caribbean.

In addition to learning about aquaculture, Kearney took home a few lessons about herself, most importantly. “I think the biggest thing I learned is how to be around people I don't know. Living on a boat with 14 people for two weeks is challenging, and you have to learn to stick up for yourself and express your feelings,” she said. “If you’re feeling agitated, you need to express that so that other people will understand and stop behaving in a particular way.”

Kearney finds it relatively easy to move out of her comfort zone and felt this trip pushed her even further. “This experience will help me adapt to college. It increased the skills needed to adjust to places that I’m not familiar with.” Kearney plans on studying mechanical engineering in college, where she plans to specialize in marine engineering so she can design boats.

“The Martin Nicholson stipend opens the door for you to do what you want in the summer, and I took advantage of that,” she said. “I would advise people to do what they’re interested in and do something that can impact your future.” 
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