Monmouth University’s great location on the New Jersey coast
attracts students with a love for the ocean. Megan O’Donnell wanted to study
marine biology, but she wanted to explore a new location far from her home in
South Amboy, near the Monmouth campus. However, after meeting Monmouth’s
faculty and experiencing the personalized, hands-on opportunities our students
receive, Megan changed her mind. She found exactly what she was looking for
close to home.
“I grew up in the area, about 30
minutes up the Parkway in Sayreville,” Megan said. “I knew I wanted to study
marine biology, but I originally planned to leave New Jersey for an
out-of-state school. I did not want to be close to home, but I applied to
Monmouth just in case I changed my mind.
“After hearing about Monmouth’s
Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy program, I emailed Professor John Tiedemann,
the director of the program, to learn more about it. Professor Tiedemann
responded by inviting me to go out on a boat with him and some of his students for
one of his current research projects. After getting my first taste of research
before even entering college, I knew that Monmouth was the school I wanted to
Now in her third year, Megan has
continued to conduct research in collaboration with state and federal agencies
as well as with Monmouth faculty. She plans on harnessing her growing résumé of professional experience to continue her marine studies.
“After graduation, I will
attend graduate school,” Megan said. “Although I am not exactly sure of what I
would like to study, it will most likely be along the lines of oceanography.”
Faculty Member Influence
Monmouth’s diverse and energetic faculty convinced her to
enroll in Monmouth. Now, Megan finds academic support, career advice, and
networking opportunities from her professors and mentors.
“In the past two years at Monmouth, I have built strong relationships
with my professors,” Megan said. “When I was a freshman, Dr. Ursula Howson took
me under her wing. She not only taught me in the classroom, but she encouraged
me to become involved in research. She has opened so many doors for me. Aside
from the research I have participated in here at Monmouth, Dr. Howson has also
helped me network at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Marine Science Lab on Sandy Hook and with the New Jersey Department of
Environmental Protection (NJDEP).
“At NOAA, I worked with one of the scientists and a graduate
student from West Virginia University analyzing the fatty tissue of striped
bass. From this project I learned how to anesthetize the fish, how to
revive them after the experiment, techniques of tagging them, and bioelectric
“I volunteered for the NJDEP’s Opening Day Angler Survey. I went
to Mac's Pond, in nearby Manasquan, and gathered information on the number of
fishermen present and how many fish were caught to enhance the Divisions
Freshwater Fishery Program.
“Getting involved in different research
opportunities and beginning to network has been invaluable.”
How Monmouth helped me achieve my goals
“When I first began
at Monmouth, I was not positive about the direction I wanted to go in,” Megan
said. “I knew I loved the marine sciences, but I was not sure exactly where I
could go with it after graduation. Now, I better understand my interests and can
funnel all of my passions into a goal—attending graduate school.
“The Monmouth University School of Science has given me the
chance to follow my dreams. I have had so many opportunities to ‘wet my feet,’
figuratively and literally, in different potential career options. With Monmouth’s
help, I will continue to chase my goal and learn more about myself.”
Collaborations that I've been involved with
“I have participated in two major research projects at
Monmouth,” Megan said. “Last year I studied zooplankton in Barnegat Bay with
Dr. Howson and Professor James Nickels. I gained both lab and field experience
from this research opportunity. Twice a month zooplankton samples were taken
from five locations between Toms River and Long Beach Island in Barnegat Bay. I
had a blast going out on the boat and was able to apply all of the knowledge I had
learned in the classroom. Not only did I gain knowledge and experience, but I
also received confirmation that I had chosen the right major and I was headed
down the right path.
“Currently, I am involved in a research project with Dr. Tiffany
Medley and Professor Nickels studying oyster populations from the Hackensack
River in New York to the Raritan Bay in New Jersey. The known oyster
populations in the Hudson River Estuary are not as abundant as they once were.
Oysters are good ecological indicators because they filter the water, and they
are also important to the local estuaries.
“It is essential that we protect and restore our marine
habitat—understanding that bigger picture of our research is important to me.”
Why I'm proud of Monmouth
proudly wear my Monmouth University t-shirts, baseball caps, and sweatshirts on
a regular basis. I want people to know that this is my school. If they ask me
about it, I am quick to tell them of the great experiences I have had. I find
that many other students, alumni, family, and friends are proud to represent
Monmouth University and share how much the school has to offer its students.”