Signature Experience Award takes student to the Bahamas

Rebecca Bishop, Donaghey Scholar, Student Experience Award recipient

Rebecca Bishop, a Donaghey Scholar whose research interests lie in the health of diseased coral reef, will use her Signature Experience Award funds this summer to travel to San Salvador, an island in the Bahamas, to collect and analyze coral reef samples at the Gerace Research Centre.

Bishop, a sophomore environmental geology major, was among the first group of University of Arkansas at Little Rock students to receive Chancellor Andrew Rogerson’s newly instituted Signature Experience Award. During the fall 2017 semester, he awarded 79 UA Little Rock students $1,000 to assist in the purchase of materials for a one-semester project or experience in research or creative works.

“I’ve always been interested in coral reefs because of how incredibly diverse and important they are as an ecosystem,” Bishop explained. “The more I learned about corals, however, the more I understood how much danger they were in.”

Through her research, Bishop found that the frequency of increasingly warming temperatures and extreme weather events threatened the future of coral reefs. To gain a better understanding of how these conditions impacted the animals, Bishop decided to explore them in San Salvador, an island with very little literature about the ecological health of its reefs.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about coral diseases and their causes, but when I learned that I could help contribute to the information surrounding coral and their health, I became eager to start my own research,” she said.

Bishop has already dived into the discovery stage of her project, “Incidence of Coral Reef Disease on San Salvador Island.” From March 19-24 during spring break, she and her Geology and Ecology of the Bahamas class traveled to the Bahamas for field study. While there, Bishop began the preliminary work of her project, scoping out sample sites and inspecting coral diseases.

Bishop’s overall research goal seeks to continue the monitoring of coral reefs, while using the findings to help establish a marine reserve with active management and a regulations enforcement plan for San Salvador’s reef system. Dr. René Shroat-Lewis, assistant professor of paleontology and geoscience in the Department of Earth Sciences, serves as her advisor.

Bishop will complete her bachelor’s degree in geology in 2020, and afterward, plans to head to graduate school to study oceanography.

Not only is Bishop thrilled to do the research she enjoys, she’s also grateful to have the university’s support, expressed through the Signature Experience Award, to back her in her endeavors.

“The Signature Experience Award has been extremely important for me,” Bishop said. “Because my research focuses on an area outside of the United States, the costs associated with my project are a bit high. If it weren’t for the help and support I’ve received from the Signature Experience Award, I wouldn’t be able to conduct such exciting and unique research.”


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