I was helping my sister Kaitlin write a cover letter for an Academic Advisor position and like any cover letter we were working on describing her experiences as they related to the job description… what was her experience with social media, with mentoring and advising students and running information sessions.  It was then that I realized that for both of us, mentoring and advising students has been”our thing” for a long time. We were both involved in Peer Leadership in high school. Of course now my “Peer Kids,” the students who were once just high-school freshmen, have now graduated from college and some are pursuing advanced degrees of their own.  We were both involved in mentoring at the University of Connecticut and both have continued on this path of advising and mentoring throughout our time at Virginia Tech for Kaitlin and Duke for me.  And now Kaitlin is headed back to our alma mater UConn to work with the Honors Program and the students in the program, a program that made our UConn careers what they were and a group of people I still think of as family.  P.S. I’m one proud big sister!

And that’s how it’s been, we’ve always found opportunities to mentor and advise students and I don’t think we will ever stop.

So when I started my PhD I knew this “mentoring thing” would continue and I was very lucky to find three amazing Master’s students that I am so proud to call my mentees, my friends and my fellow Spinnerettes right off the bat. For my first year of PhD’ing I was in Durham. I spent the academic year there and then shipped back to Beaufort where the Marine Lab is and where I truly feel is my Duke home. This is the same path I took when I was a Master’s student, first year in Durham and second in Beaufort. Because I repeated this path I had the opportunity to get to know the first year Master’s students for the year in Durham and then we all moved to Beaufort for our second year together. And because of this I had the opportunity to develop as a mentor over the two years of getting to know Demi, Julia and Liza and get my first real taste at what a college professor/advisor must feel when their students go on to do great things and make a real difference in the world.  I vividly remember my first meeting with Demi Fox and Julia Goss in my office in Durham. They had learned about the spinner dolphin project and just like me two years ago, knew they wanted to get involved. Scratch that, the knew they HAD to get involved. So we sat down and chatted about their ideas for their Master’s project and our relationship started! That meeting with the first meeting of 3 (of the future 4) Spinnerettes.

Our group grew quickly after that meeting to include Demi Fox, Julia Goss and Liza Hoos and I like to think that the four of us could take on the world! We recently submitted a lesson plan for a book on Tablets in K-12 classrooms about marine mammals and sound, which should be published within the year. The four of us shipped off to Hawai’i for three and a half weeks to study the spinner dolphins as part of the last month of fieldwork for the SAPPHIRE Project and made quite the team, moving like a well-oiled machine as we followed dolphins along the Kona Coast.  And I had the privilege of watching Julia, Demi and Liza present their Master’s Projects and I couldn’t have been more proud of the work they did. You can check out their projects here: Julia and Dolphin Smart, Demi and the Naia Guide and Liza with her habitat models for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  I felt like a proud parent watching the three of them gracefully and confidently talk about their projects.  I know this might seem like strange timing for this blog post, it is a few months after graduation and only Demi remains in Beaufort.  But I was reminded just yesterday how proud I am of my now fellow CEM Alums and knew I needed to share this latest milestone on my blog.

Demi’s Master’s Project focused on the use of mobile applications for conservation and the creation of “The Nai’a Guide.” The Nai’a Guide started as an idea, what if there was an app that people who were visiting the Hawaiian Islands could download and it would tell them about the spinner dolphins (known in Hawai’i as nai’a), about the fact that they rest during the day, about the research being done about their population and about how people could responsibly interact with the dolphins. And as of yesterday, when it made its debut on the iTunes app store, that idea is now a reality. So, if you have an iPad download it! If you know someone who is going to Hawai’i or you just want to look at some cool pictures and videos of these beautiful dolphins, this is your app too! Here is the link again: https://itunes.apple.com/bg/app/the-nai-a-guide/id662867790?mt=8

Also check out the Duke research blog article about the app and keep an eye on the Johnston Superpod page for a blog from Demi about the app’s release!

P.S. I’m one proud Spinnerette! And I can’t wait to see what’s next for Demi, Julia and Liza. I know they’re off to great things!

Demi, Liza, Me and Julia

Demi, Liza, Me and Julia

Advertisements