Q&A with Duke undergrad Anne Harshbarger
We recently caught up with Anne Harshbarger T’19, a Duke junior who is double-majoring in environmental sciences and biology, with a concentration in marine science and conservation. Harshbarger spent two semesters at the Duke University Marine Laboratory (DUML), where she worked in the Marine Robotics & Remote Sensing Laboratory (aka “the Drone Lab”) and did community outreach.
Why did you decide to spend two semesters at the Marine Lab?
I came to Duke knowing that I wanted to study at the Marine Lab, and I was itching to come to DUML as soon as I could. I had such an incredible experience in my first semester there, and I was so happy to have the opportunity to come back for the summer to continue my research and community outreach work. DUML is such an awesome community, and there are a lot of great opportunities to be fully immersed in marine science that you just can’t get in Durham! At DUML, I’ve found an amazing group of mentors and advisors, both official and unofficial, and I’ve become not just a better scientist but also a better communicator because of it.
Tell us about your research interests.
I’m currently researching the applications of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology for monitoring feral horse herd health, using some of the same techniques another lab has previously used for seal, penguins and whales. After coming into the research project with no experience with UAVs, I’m now very interested in continuing to explore the use of this technology to study marine mammals. At this point, my interests are still pretty broad!
You also work extensively with [DUML research scientist] Liz DeMattia in community outreach. How does that fit into your research interests?
I started doing outreach with the Drone Lab in the spring, which is how I got introduced to Liz and the DUML Community Science Program on Marine Debris [a year-long program for local 4th grade classes]. In both cases, I’m teaching people and getting them excited about science and issues I care about, so in that sense, it’s sort of the same interest. There’s a lot of overlap!
What do you hope to do after graduating? How will studying at the Marine Lab help you reach that goal?
After graduating, I hope to pursue a PhD in marine science. In some ways, I think being able to explore all of the things I love about marine science broadened my interests rather than narrowing them, but my experience at the Marine Lab definitely solidified my interest in research. Beyond giving me experience with fieldwork and research, my time at DUML also got me thinking about what kind of graduate program I’m ultimately looking for. Since I’m just starting my junior year, I think this early start will be a huge help when I start to apply for grad school.
What advice do you have for other Duke students considering studying at the Marine Lab?
Whether or not you plan to pursue a career in marine science, the Marine Lab offers an amazing experience for everyone. If it’s something you’re interested in, even if it doesn’t exactly fit into your major requirements, go for it! The opportunities DUML has to offer are one-of-a-kind, so take advantage of the time you have at the lab, go to seminars, and go exploring!