Anna Naylor talks about fourth year

A day in the life

Anna Naylor talks about fourth year

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I’m much more aware of the ocean and its issues. Our economy depends on it—and it’s in dire straits right now. We need to stop taking it for granted.

Preparing for a future in marine conservation

A fourth-year honours student in Dal’s Marine Biology Department, Anna Naylor says she’s “nervous and excited, not knowing what the future holds.”

The Halifax native has always wanted to study marine biology. “It’s kind of a funny story,” she smiles. “When I was four, I was with my dad at a dock near where we lived, and I said, ‘I want to study dolphins.’ He said, ‘You could be a marine biologist.’”

“I have yet to swim with dolphins,” Anna laughs, acknowledging she probably never will because of the stress it places on them. But, she says, “It’s neat to see them in their habitat.”

During a two-week summer field school class, Anna did—in the Bay of Fundy. One week of lectures was followed by a week of camping at Digby Neck and venturing out on a boat every day. “We saw pods of white-sided dolphins, pilot whales, humpbacks, North Atlantic Right whales, fin whales,” she reports. “North Atlantic Right whales come to the Bay of Fundy to nurse, so it was fun to see them so active this summer.”

She and other students gathered data on various marine mammals. “We looked at sea surface temperature, depth, and GPS coordinates to determine marine mammal distribution,” she says. “Field school is really good preparation for the future—we’re learning how to do actual data collection, not just the theory behind it.”

Anna says she’s already thinking about studying an aspect of marine ecology in grad school. “I really want to look at coral reefs—how they’re affected by tourism, climate change, and other anthropogenic effects,” she explains.

Her top choice is a university in Australia, where she’d have access to corals in the Great Barrier Reef. “It’s crazy,” Anna says. “When I was doing research for my Political Ecology course, I learned that some areas used to have 150 species, and now it’s hard to find 50.”

She adds that discussions around ecology and conservation are part of every course now. “Which is good,” she says. “Any change has to start with awareness—of what’s being done, of what can be done. We keep being told it’s our generation that will be making those changes.”

Anna also takes part in the Dalhousie Association of Marine Biology Students (DAMS). “I got my scuba certificate through DAMS,” she says, “and they organize other activities, like sea kayaking, team sports, and social gatherings.”