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Holland Finds Home at Woods Hole

Miranda Holland, ’21, M.S. ’23, had a busy spring 2023 semester.

For the past few months, Holland has been working at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Falmouth, Mass., figuring out as part of her graduate thesis how beneficial multi-species ocean farming technology is for the environment. Holland has the distinction of being the first graduate of the new joint SCSU/WCSU MSc in Integrative Biological Diversity program.

Southern caught up with Holland, who just landed a full-time role at Woods Hole as a research assistant.

Q: What attracted you to work full-time for an organization like Woods Hole?

Holland: In my experience as a guest student, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
(WHOI) is a really exciting place to be because the people there have a shared passion
and curiosity. Everyone is working towards the same goal: to learn more about the
ocean and share that knowledge.

I’m really excited to be a full-time part of that environment and to further my knowledge in my field while building on my own expertise. I’m also really excited by the opportunity to go on research cruises! Not all institutions have access to the resources necessary to organize a cruise of this magnitude, and I feel very privileged to be able to participate in this kind of scientific exploration.

Q: How does your work at Woods Hole speak to Southern’s commitment to

Holland: SCSU and the CSCU system have supported this research and other sustainability-focused projects by providing essential funding that we wouldn’t be able to work without.

This project specifically was funded by CTNext; the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine
; Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU) AAUP Faculty Research Grants;
Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) Faculty Research Grants; the Borrego
Foundation; and the Naktenis Foundation; as well as the Department of Environment,
Geography and Marine Sciences
and the College of Arts and Sciences at SCSU.

Q: What would be some of your responsibilities at Woods Hole?

Holland: My responsibilities in my new role at Woods Hole in Govindarajan Labs will build off of my previous work there working with environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding, which includes DNA extractions, PCR, etc.

I will also be learning new techniques, like extracting DNA from tissue samples rather than water samples. Additionally, I will be going on research cruises, which is a new experience that I’m very excited for! I will be working as part of a crew on WHOI’s Ocean Twilight Zone (OTZ) project to collect samples for this ongoing research.

Q: How does it feel to finally graduate from Southern? Furthermore, be the first graduate of the new joint SCSU/WCSU MSc in Integrative Biological Diversity program?

Holland: I have really enjoyed my time at Southern, and there are a lot of great people here that I’m going to miss seeing daily.

However, I’m very excited to begin this new adventure in Woods Hole and move forward in my academic career! I’m proud to have been the first SCSU student to graduate from the Integrative Biological Diversity (IBD) MSc program! I really enjoyed the diverse array of classes because it allowed me to choose subjects that I wanted to further specialize and gain practical experience in. I’m very excited for my friends entering in the program!

Q: What are some of the experiences from your time at Southern that you will take with you into your respective professional field?

Holland: My time at Southern has reinforced my passion for marine science and given it a
direction. Because of the opportunities that I had – field research, lab experiences, my
guest student appointment at WHOI, and being a TA – I know that I want to continue into a
career in academia.

I learned a lot of practical skills that will serve me well throughout my career: how to use various tools to measure water quality; sampling protocols for plankton tows, nutrient testing, and eDNA metabarcoding; how to perform DNA extractions, PCR, and gel electrophoresis; and how to use coding to analyze DNA sequence data. Additionally, I learned intangible skills like adaptability, perseverance, and teamwork.

I also really enjoyed the opportunities that I had as a graduate student graduate
assistant (GSGA), particularly as a TA for MAR 210. There’s something about watching
people getting excited and having fun doing something that you love for the first time
that makes you remember why you love it. That experience made me realize how much
I love teaching.

Q: Who do you credit for helping you along your path toward this full-time role at
Woods Hole?

Holland: I credit my parents, whose unwavering support has allowed me to pursue my interests to the fullest extent, and Dr. Emma Cross, whose careful guidance and dedicated mentorship has taught me more than words can say. I’m so very grateful for the strong support system that has backed me up every step of the way, and I always will be.

Q: What inspires to continue your work in the biodiversity field?

Holland: Whenever I get caught up in the small details of the day-to-day, I remember the larger picture. Biodiversity loss is a major global crisis, and the feeling that I am able to
contribute to a solution keeps me passionate and driven to continue working in my field.


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