Melissa Rohal, a PhD student at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, is on a mission to stick up for the little guys. They're not as attractive as dolphins or sea turtles, but benthic macrofauna are all the rage in the deep ocean. Small animals like worms, copepods and nematodes fill a key role in the food web and act as indicator species of the health of the ecosystem.
While working on her PhD at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Melissa works to understand the impacts of oil spills on deep-sea ecosystem services provided by meio- and macro-faunal communities. Her researcher and ability to 'stick up for the little guys' makes her the C-IMAGE Student of the Month for May 2017.
What path did you take to make it to where you are now? Bachelor’s degree, internship experience, working experience?
When I started my education all I knew was that I wanted to study the ocean, so I took a broad approach and entered the Marine Science Program at Coastal Carolina University. The course work looked at all aspects of oceanography including physical, geological, biological, and chemical. As I progressed through my degree I took an internship at the Ripley’s aquarium while also helping my professors with research. From these experiences I discovered that research was what I wanted to pursue. I was unable to get into graduate school right away so I took a job at the Columbus Zoo helping the keepers in the shores area.