One weekend each month, one of graduate student Miranda Holland’s favorite things to do is travel to Massachusetts, exploring the shores of Long Island Sound as a way to advocate for innovative aquatic farming techniques that help mitigate the impact of climate change.
“Being outside, just that hands-on element being out on the water, there’s nothing like it. You just feel very connected to your work,” said Holland.
Holland, a 2021 graduate of Southern, is pursuing a master of science degree in Integrative Biological Diversity.
In September 2021, Holland found herself as a guest student completing her master’s thesis at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Falmouth, Mass. She works there once a month, collecting ocean samples found off Martha’s Vineyard in collaboration with aquaculture farmers at Cottage City Oysters.
Holland first arrived at Southern from Hamden’s Common Ground High School, an environmental charter school just up the road from campus. An advanced placement class in environmental studies sparked an interest in the world around her.
“In college, what I really wanted to do was field research and study abroad, and Southern had great opportunities in both of those realms in the Environmental Department,” said Holland.
During her sophomore and junior years, Holland studied abroad both in Iceland for two weeks, and then in Liverpool for an entire semester through the Office of International Education. Those were experiences, according to Holland, that served to broaden her understanding of complex environmental issues.
“I just got the travel bug. Love being outside, love doing the different field research labs,” said Holland.
After completing her undergraduate degree in fall 2021, Holland knew that she didn’t want to stop furthering her education.
“With this project, with the Werth Center, has really just been continuing to fuel that passion and that love for field research and marine science,” said Holland.
At Woods Hole, Holland collects and studies water samples off the coast, extracting and examining DNA from seawater samples. Additionally, she collects video samples to complete biodiversity samples and calibrates and redeploys multiprobes.
All of this work is to educate others on the future and importance of ocean farming and aquaculture – the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments. According to Holland, this new type of ocean farming is regenerative to the environment, protecting threatened and endangered species and encouraging biodiversity.
“Multi-species ocean farming is an emerging aquaculture technique. So what it involves is a combination of shellfish farming and kelp farming,” said Holland. “When you’re trying to make that sustainable, it’s kind of about making the least impact, the least bad, the least harm.”
The partnership among Southern, Woods Hole, and Cottage City Oysters arose from conversations with colleagues of Emma Cross, an assistant professor of coastal/marine studies in the Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences.
After realizing a common interest in quantifying the biodiversity impacts of multi-species ocean farming, Cross saw a way to get her students involved through this internship.
“This emerging aquaculture technique co-cultures seaweed and shellfish and there is a lack of data quantifying the potential benefits of this type of farming to the surrounding marine environment,” said Cross. “We are quantifying local biodiversity through a traditional survey technique of GoPros to collect video footage and also an emerging tool of environmental DNA.”
Cross said she is proud of Holland’s continued successes.
“Through this research, Holland is learning environmental DNA metabarcoding skills, which she hopes to continue to pursue in a Ph.D. program,” said Cross. “I am very proud of Randy and look forward to continuing to see her thrive in her academic career.”
The Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences provides students with hands-on learning experiences both in and out of the classroom, especially in the form of student-faculty research collaborations or faculty-supervised research projects. Click here to learn more.