August 08, 2017

Growing up around the lakes of Manchester, Maine, senior Quintin Diou-Cass wasn’t too different from what he is like today—always curious, always observing.

“When I was a kid I wanted to explore the woods and yard around me because, to my seven- to eight-year-old self, that was ‘undiscovered territory’ and I wanted to find what was there, document it and show everyone what I had found,” he said. “In a way, I still think that’s what motivates me.”

The ecology major is doing just this as a research intern at the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SkIO) in Savannah, Ga. At SkIO, he is studying the ways in which phytoplankton (microscopic marine algae) die and how that affects the surrounding ecosystem.

As Diou-Cass explains, the way phytoplankton die determines if their energy flows up the food chain to larger organisms or down the food chain to smaller bacteria.

“Determining these dynamics allows us to understand how energy flows from the most primary and essential source of energy in the marine environment to all life in the oceans,” Diou-Cass said. “My project is to study these dynamics within an estuarine ecosystem.”

As a second author on a forthcoming research paper, he hopes to present his results at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Ore.

“I enjoy the atmosphere of scientific experimentation and exploration the most,” Diou Cass said. “As an undergraduate, even if you do find the time to help a professor with research, you always have the ‘nagging’ reminder of homework or classes. At SkIO, I can focus all of my energy on research, and I love being able to do that.”

The internship is a next step in reaching his goal of earning a graduate degree in marine biology. It follows classes that took him to the Susquehanna River and a Global Opportunities experience that took him to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

“This internship is incredibly exciting and interesting for me, and reminds me of why I love science,” he said. “Moments of new personal discovery, like seeing something under the microscope for the first time, are my favorite part of science. You can’t help but smile and say, ‘Wow. That’s so cool.’”

See more internships here.