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Marine biology undergraduate receives Provost’s Award for early research

By Danielle Lynch

Nicole Peckham, a marine biology major, has been awarded Provost Early Research/Creative Endeavors Award for her project entitled “Zonation Patterns Between a Native and Invasive Crab Species in Cape Cod Salt Marshes.”

The competitive award supports students, especially first- and second-year undergraduates, in an original research project under the guidance of a Northeastern faculty mentor. Nicole used her funds to investigate how human activities have impacted Cape Cod salt marshes, causing certain species of crab to move beyond their native borders. She analyzed whether the distribution of blue crabs (a native species) and green crabs (an invasive species) created a zonation pattern perhaps indicating an interspecific relationship between them. “This would increase our knowledge of how human activities can fundamentally change an ecosystem,” she said.

Nicole grew up on the Cape and was already familiar with its ecosystem, but her research interest in this region developed when she took Assistant Professor David Kimbro’s Ecology course. In this course, she got her first taste of what field study was really about. “Nothing that I learned in elementary school really prepared me for the immersion of doing field research!” When Dr. Kimbro mentioned opportunities for undergraduates to get more involved, Nicole decided to work with him. The Kimbro Lab at the Marine Science Center in Nahant conducts research on blue crab range expansion due to climate change, and this seemed like a perfect fit.

Nicole’s advice to high school seniors or college freshmen is to talk to your teachers and not to be afraid to try something you might not like. “Worst case,” she said, “you have a learning experience and [can] narrow down your interests.”

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