Week 4:
Reflecting on the Future

Cornell Fellow in Ocean Research

African Campus | Mossel Bay, South Africa

March 3, 2019

The end of the week marked the end of February and the half-way point of my fellowship. Due to it being a new month, ten of the interns are leaving, and we received two new interns! While I was sad that the old interns were leaving, I’m excited to work with Ingrid and Kayla for the next month. This week was different from the others. We got to respond to a beached whale, did a course on marine mammal stranding, and I started my open ocean diving course.

About to collect samples from a dead pygmy sperm whale.

This week has been the most that I’ve learned practically speaking. On Monday, we had a pygmy sperm whale beached itself. Sadly it had died during the night, and we weren’t able to save it. We were able to do a full necropsy on it and from this, we can learn a lot about the species and why it had beached itself. I was able to help collect skin, blubber, and muscle samples, as well as helping with general organ removal. These skills will help in my future career, having helped with this beaching, I want to become certified and be able to help with marine mammal strandings. As an extension of this, Oceans Research offered an extra course to become certified in marine mammal stranding for the Mossel Bay area. While the certification is only usable in South Africa, I learned a lot about different situations and how to best help dolphins and whales when they strand themselves. Being apart of this course solidified that this is something that I want to pursue in the future.

During the stranding course, we had to re-float ‘Willy’, the resident whale! We did this after assessing the situation and determining he was in good condition.

Another skill that will be helpful in my future is scuba diving. I started my open water diving class this weekend. The certification I will receive from this will look good on my resume and will be helpful in a number of different marine oriented jobs. Oceans Research invited a local preschool to learn about tidal pools and the ocean in general. It was a great opportunity to work with children and to learn how to interact with them. I was able to teach them about different shark and fish species and led them on a beach cleanup. With these experiences and with the wide verity of projects going on, my plan for after college has changed. I still want to go into marine conservation, but I would love to work in tidal works or work with teaching kids and the general public about conservation.

The tidal pool we made for the preschool group. It included spiny starfish, cushion stars, and many different tidal species.

Being away from Cornell and everyone I know has been a great opportunity for me. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I would like to see in my future. I was nervous about being a part of this organization, but I have been having one of the best times of my life, and I can see myself working in marine conservation. I can’t wait to work for another month and dive deeper into the work.

Camden Grundeman '19

Camden is an environmental studies major and biology minor from Naples, Florida.