Onward and upward: Kellie McGinness becomes the first graduate of the
Oceanography Program of Study
by Jennifer J. Hamlin
Kellie McGinness works at TAMU's Gene Technology Laboratory as an undergraduate
Kellie McGinness has always wanted to work in marine biology, so it was
no surprise that the 23-year-old Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences major from
Houston graduated in December as the first student to earn the Oceanography
Program of Study certificate at Texas A&M University. The program of study,
which began in the Fall 1994 semester, allows undergraduates to extend their
interest in oceanography beyond lower level courses, and includes field
work, cruise experiences, and an undergraduate thesis.
Kellie currently works as a research assistant in the Gene Technology Laboratory
here at Texas A&M, but plans to start graduate school this fall and
continue researching marine mammals. While she once hoped that the Department
of Oceanography would decide to offer an undergraduate degree, she found
that her studies in wildlife and fisheries were complimented perfectly by
her work for the Oceanography Program of Study.
Kellie's work in the oceanography program began in the fall of 1991, when
she took Dr. Greta Fryxell's course on marine coastal environments. The
following spring, as a student worker in oceanography, she maintained algae
cultures and assisted graduate students with their research into toxin absorption
by oyster tissue. This experience lead to her undergraduate thesis research
on toxic diatoms in the digestive tracts of California anchovies, under
the combined direction of Dr. Fryxell in oceanography and Dr. John McEachran
in wildlife and fisheries sciences.
Kellie first became interested in the Research Experience for Undergraduates
(REU) programs in 1993, before Texas A&M oceanography started its REU program.
She knew from the beginning that it could be a terrific opportunity for
her, so she applied and was accepted for an REU in Anacortes, Washington
in 1994. There she worked with the National Council of the Paper Industry
for Air and Stream Improvement studying marine sediment toxicity at Shannon
Point Marine Center. During her stay, she struggled with breeding oysters
for her experiments. "It's a hard business to do. You often feel like
threatening them with cooking them- `Spawn or I'll cook you' -but they don't
listen much," she said.
Kellie feels that the Oceanography Program of Study will improve with the
addition of more courses, especially honors courses, and also finds the
special topics classes valuable. She found that she was able to tailor a
curriculum for herself that would not have been available otherwise, and
she feels that her participation in the REU program makes her a better candidate
for both graduate schools and potential employment.
Kellie has applied to five graduate programs in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences,
three of them on the Pacific coast, where she hopes to continue her research.
During Spring Break, she and her fiance will travel to Washington, Oregon
and California to investigate how well each school fits into their future
plans. Kellie's undergraduate thesis will be published in the Canadian
Journal of Zoology this summer. She and her fiance are busy planning
a July wedding, and with graduate school just around the corner, Kellie
is keeping busy. While she has not decided exactly what path her career
will take, she hopes to continue researching toxins and their movement through
food webs, especially their effects on vertebrates. She is concerned about
the expense of mammal research, but feels that she can overcome this limitation
with research which shows how marine vertebrates affected by toxicity have
a significant impact on humans.
Author Jennifer Hamlin is
an undergraduate student majoring in journalism and also working toward
a certificate from the Oceanography Program of Study. For more information
about the program, contact Drew
Also see Undergraduate program
of study in oceanography and Oceanography
opporunities for undergraduates.
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Oceanography, Texas A&M University
Updated May 23, 1996