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Challenge accepted – school student interns in the EPIBleach project

Blog written by Luisa Meiritz on her recent activities in the EPIBleach project.

During March of 2024, we had some important visitors here at GEOMAR (Kiel), bringing energetic and motivated support to the EPIBleach project. Four students, Judith, Emma, Rieke and Hannah, joined us as part of a school student internship based in the educational program for public schools across Niedersachsen. This internship is called the “Herausforderung“, which in English translates to “Challenge”; an excellent program for both the students and myself!

The “Herausforderungen” project is designed around the students completing a project of their choice within a week, with a set budget. Rieke, Judith, Emma and Hannah (who was mentoring support for the students) applied for the “Herausforderungen” project at GEOMAR (Kiel) because they are particularly interested in climate change and endangered ecosystems such as coral reefs. Much of this interest comes from the global threat that coral reefs face, as major marine heatwaves continue to result in devastating coral bleaching events.

My PhD project, EPIBleach as part of the SPP 2299 programme, is ideally suited to investigate and understand more about these threats. In the EPIBleach project, we use fossil corals to reconstruct past bleaching events and investigate the fossil coral resilience to warming climates.

Student introduction to clean lab work and pipette work at GEOMAR. The image shows one of the students in a clean lab suit, and facing a fume cupboard working on samples.
Students participating in fish feeding time in the small coral aquarium of GEOMAR.
The image shows a large coral tank in the front of the image with students in the background.
Image of fossil corals in a draw. These samples are very similar to the samples the students worked on during their internship.

During the internship, the students worked on developing important climate histories for four individual archive coral core locations (Mauritius, Mayotte, Madagascar and Aqaba). The students developed key skills around literature research, an essential skill in identifying previous knowledge and understanding the key aspects of the research!

The focus was not only on literature research; the students also worked on the physical coral samples! Throughout the internship, the students got hands-on experience in the clean labs at GEOMAR, discussed methodologies around analysis in the lab, and experienced the all-important planning stage for sampling these complicated fossil corals. The “Herausforderungen” project provided the students with a holistic picture of how our project conducts our scientific work on coral samples!

After the internship, we could all agree that the students accepted the challenge and also mastered the skills! For me, it was a great introduction to structuring small educational outreach projects like this. Working with enthusiastic students is so valuable for me, and is also a fantastic way for me to learn valuable communication skills!

Blog edited by Jessica A. Hargreaves. Images from F. Böhm and L. Meiritz and used with the permission of the students.

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