Katlyn Dekle, 2016 Cliff Townsend Family Fellowship Scholar
For one Pedro Menendez High School student, the summer of 2016 was spent learning about environmental conservation right in her own backyard at the University of Florida Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience. Katlyn Dekle, now a high school senior, was the recipient of Whitney Laboratory’s Cliff Townsend Family Fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to provide local high school students with greater exposure to science and encourage them to consider scientific research as a career. During the fellowship, Dekle worked under the direction of Assistant Professor of Biogeochemistry Todd Osborne and Biodiversity Initiative Director Jose Nunez in the Wetland Biogeochemistry Laboratory.
Dekle’s application for the fellowship stood out. She is part of Pedro Menendez High School’s International Baccalaureate Program. She has led volunteer efforts for coastal clean ups as well as for military stationed overseas. She is interested in both the medical field and conservation, which is a perfect fit with Whitney Laboratory. Dekle’s career goals include becoming a surgeon and developing new means of medical technology. She would also like to educate the public about conservation of the earth and all of its creatures and plants.
During the fellowship, Dekle helped Osborne’s team prepare for the oyster restoration project. This is a community-based program with the purpose of restoring oyster habitats in the area. She also worked on the Matanzas Biodiversity Initiative, which is another community-based program that assembles a comprehensive inventory of the habitats and biological resources of the Matanzas River Basin and its adjacent beaches and coastal waters. Dekle collected inventory for the project. The collected inventory allows scientists to monitor environmental changes and the responses of biological communities to these changes.
“This summer, interning at Whitney Laboratory has really opened my eyes. I have experienced some great, real-world work in a scientific field that I wouldn’t have been able to without this opportunity. Not only did the internship teach me wonderful things about being in a lab, it also allowed for me to become so much more involved in a local community and ecosystem project,” said Dekle.
The scholarship is named in honor or Cliff Townsend, who was the curator and then general manager of the original porpoise attraction in the town of Marineland. During Whitney Laboratory’s early formative years, Townsend was extremely helpful in its development and served as a member of its administrative board.