Marine Biology Internship Gave Gardner-Webb Senior Opportunity to Improve Lab Skills

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Ivy Spratling, ‘20, Studied Ways to Protect Horseshoe Crab Population Used in Medical Field

Ivy Spratling, left, holds a horseshoe crab while talking to a young person about the crabs. Also in the photo of two small pools of horseshoe crabs. during her internship in Georgia.
Gardner-Webb senior Ivy Spratling, left, educates a young person about horseshoe crabs during her internship in Georgia.

Ivy Spratling, ’20, of Augusta, Ga., was introduced to Gardner-Webb University in high school. She attended a GWU soccer camp, and later earned a scholarship to play on the team. However, her decision to attend the University was based on more than athletics. “Gardner-Webb stood out to me for many different reasons other than soccer,” Spratling reflected. “One big reason is that it is a Christian University. I grew up going to church and went to a Christian high school. I also loved the location and the people I met on my visit.”

Because of her passion for science, Ivy chose to major in biology at GWU. Her professor, Dr. Joseph Oyugi, and instructor Stacie Smith helped her obtain a summer internship with the University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Office in Brunswick, Ga. Through the experience, she gained valuable experience in the lab and ideas about her future plans. She is applying to graduate school at UGA, College of Charleston (S.C.), and a few others.

Ivy shares what she learned from the internship and how her classes at GWU prepared her for a successful experience.

Q:  What was your job at the UGA Marine Extension, and what did you learn from the experience?

Ivy: My job was to assist with daily monitoring of water quality and benthic invertebrate sampling. Benthic invertebrates are organisms that live on the bottom of a water body, or in the sediment, and have no backbone. I also monitored the health and behavior of 40 captive horseshoe crabs, including weighing/measuring and feeding them. I also conducted data entry and participated in public outreach by working with 4-H staff at the nearby nature center to educate youth about horseshoe crabs. Lastly, I conducted blue crab dock intercept surveys. I also had other opportunities to go shrimping and out on the Research Vessel Savanna to help researchers catch and observe shrimp that were infected with Black Gill disease. I learned that the blood of horseshoe crabs is used in the medical field to sterilize and detect bacterial contaminations in medicines. One problem that has caused a 30 percent mortality rate for horseshoe crabs is that people are catching them to bleed them and then returning them to the wild in a weak and vulnerable state.

Q: How did your classes and professors at Gardner-Webb prepare you for this internship?

Ivy: They have motivated me to apply critical thinking, which will also help me in the future. The classes at GWU are relatively small, so professors are very accessible and personable, which is a great advantage when help is needed. One of the more memorable classes has been Vertebrate Zoology with Dr. Oyugi. In this class, we had to perform a different dissection every week and complete a notebook with pictures and descriptions for each of them. In addition, there was a lot of chemistry involved with the internship so my chemistry classes helped a lot. I was familiar with how to test the water for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH, salinity, and conductivity.

Ivy Spratling examines a horseshoe crab in the lab in Georgia.Q: What did you learn from your internship that has helped you in your classes at Gardner-Webb?

Ivy: During my internship, I aided in the sampling of benthic invertebrates, so this allowed me to get an idea of what kind of invertebrates live in a marine, benthic environment. I was also able to collect some marine invertebrates to preserve that I brought to class and gave to Dr. (David) Campbell to keep for the science department.

Q: What do you value most about your overall Gardner-Webb experience?

Ivy: I value the friendships that I have made at Gardner-Webb the most. Being on the soccer team, I have always had a great group of friends that I can rely on. We are like a family. It is very nice to attend a University that allows me to talk about my faith with other people. On the soccer team, we pray before every game and hold team devotions often, so it allows me to be a part of another Christian family. I also get to have a spiritual relationship with my teammates and coaches rather than just a soccer relationship.

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