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Megan B O'Donnell

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Meet Megan

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 go 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 impedance analysis.

“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

“I 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.”


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