Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bermuda Program Intern, Amber Wolffe

Meet one of our amazing Bermuda Program interns, Amber Wolffe.

Amber is a second year meteorology student at La Junta in Colorado, but was born and raised in Bermuda.  This summer she was selected to participate in BIOS’s Bermuda Program and was mentored by Dr. Mark Guishard, Program Manager of the Risk Prediction Initiative.

The Bermuda Program offers a unique opportunity for Bermudian students, ages 18 and older, to broaden their knowledge of marine and atmospheric sciences and learn about the daily operations of an active research station. Roughly ten budding scientists are selected each year to receive paid fellowships (stipend plus laboratory expenses) that allow them to work on a specific project of interest alongside BIOS scientists in both field and laboratory settings. The internships run full time (Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm) for 8 weeks during the summer and include opportunities for participants to present their research in a traditional academic seminar.
Learn more about the Bermuda Program,

Amber’s first exposure to BIOS was in high school when she enrolled in a diving course.  It was then that she heard about the BIOS internship program and says she “knew” she wanted to do the program, but wanted to wait until she was ready to get as much out of the program as possible.

This year, Amber was ready.  I was able to sit down with her on one of the last days of her internship and find out if the experience was everything that she hoped.

1. How would you describe the project you have worked on at BIOS to a non-scientific person?
It really comes down to science communication.  What I’ve been doing is gaining an understanding behind meteorology, and how it is used in the insurance and re-insurance industry.  I’ve also been reviewing data analysis models of work done by scientists, and from that I’ve been able to see how they come to the conclusions they come to and how these findings then affect the world.   

Over the past five weeks, I’ve been to a lot of lectures, and met with Matt Hayden who does air quality research at BIOS.  I’ve been working with Dr. Guishard and Charles King of RPI (Risk Prediction Initiative), risk management.  I’ve also been sitting in on lectures on meteorology, and looking at fronts and low pressure and high pressure systems.  

I went to Bermuda Weather Service this week and sat in on their briefing. That was very interesting because I got to see how they forecast. It was interesting to see how they get their measurements and observe what is going on, and put it out there for the public.  I had been a couple times when I was younger, but I didn’t really understand it.  Now I get it a little more than I did.  The learning will continue, I’ll keep learning more.

2. What are your future plans?
Once I finish my degree, my heart has been set on storm chasing for a while so I will do that as long as I can and wherever it takes me.  And maybe after that’s done, I’ll look into forecasting---broadcasting meteorology. 

3. What did you hope to gain or learn from your internship, and did you achieve this?
Going into it, I was thinking,  ‘Am I ready for it?’  ‘Was I going to be able to do it?’  Because starting out in college as a freshman you feel a little overwhelmed, you don’t have a major yet, so you are just taking prerequisites.  It kind of felt a little intimidating at the beginning, but you realize everyone has to start somewhere, and you just complete each task to the best of your ability.  I got out of it everything I could have asked for.   I may not understand everything, but I now see what it all takes. I get what the groundwork is, and all of what they do behind the scenes and how they get to the conclusions that they come to. 

4. Has anything in particular impressed you while you have been at BIOS?
Yes, the facilities mostly.  I took the tour recently so I got to see many of the projects that are going on.  It was an eye opener to see that there are so many projects that are going on, and you can choose to be a part of any of them. I was kind of like a kid seeing these things for the first time. Almost like dipping your hand into a bag of candy.  You think, ‘Look there are so many projects that I can be a part of.’

The one project that really impressed me was the sea urchins--how they don’t get old.  It was just interesting to find that out, and that they are working on a project to see how it ties into us as humans.  When I saw that I couldn’t believe it.  I mean, I would have done marine biology, but since I was 10 I was set on hurricanes. I didn’t know the current term for it, but I always knew storm chasing was behind it.  And once I realized meteorology was behind it that was what I decided to do.  Now I am where I want to be, and have so many opportunities and so much exposure, I’m pretty much trying to stay focused and move forward. And someday soon I’ll be exactly where I always wanted to be. 
5. Has your time at BIOS changed your thoughts on what you might want to do in the future?
It has given me clarity.  I no longer question myself.  I was with people who explained things.  Not for one second did I ever feel uncomfortable. I could go into work and not feel like I was ever getting in someone’s way or hindering the process.  It was a nice feeling to have people there to help you and to guide you.

6. Do you have a favorite memory?
It would definitely have to be those research charts.  Seeing how scientists do their work and what they do.  It was just for me…I cannot wait.  Someday I will be able to do this, and I can’t wait for it to be my turn.

7. If you could sum up your internship in 3 words, what would they be?
My internship has been ‘eye opening’ for me.  I feel like I’m more confident because I was unsure, and it helped me to get out of that shell, and now I’m able to sail through what is next.  ‘Clarity’ is definitely one.  ‘Exceptional’ because I am walking away with a lot. 

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