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Two from Tuskegee turn the gulf into their summertime classroom

June 17, 2019

Contact: Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Realtions and Marketing

TU student Terrance Mitchell stand with Summer Research group in front of Dauphin Island Sea Lab sign
Terrance Mitchell (third from left) took part in the National Science Foundation's
Research Experience for Undergraduates.​

A pair of Tuskegee University students are taking to the sea this summer as part of an immersive, hands-on experience in the marine sciences at Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Terrance Mitchell, a junior animal science major from New Jersey, is benefiting from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Cyan Simmons, a junior biology major from Chicago, Illinois, is participating in the University Programs Summer Session in the Marine Environmental Consortium School (MESC). Tuskegee University is one of 23 colleges and universities that are part of the Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium, which was created in 1971 by the Alabama State Legislature to help decrease the redundancy of higher education for marine science.

Both Mitchell and Simmons will learn about marine science education, including conservation, research, coastal zone management policy and public engagement. They will also participate in hands-on experiential learning alongside researchers and expert faculty.

Angela Levins, Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s public relations director, said this type of program is vital to not only understanding marine science career opportunities, but what marine science truly is.

“Our oceans cover 70% of the earth, and there is a great deal we do not know about them. From the impact of temperature, biodiversity changes, and human interaction, just to name a few, marine science offers students a chance to be a part of learning about and understanding our oceans to preserve and protect animal health,” Levins explained.

Simmons at Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Simmons at Dauphin Island Sea Lab

For the next 10 weeks, Mitchell will carry out an independent research project in marine toxicology under the leadership of the senior marine scientist Dr. Alison Robertson. Just a couple of weeks into his summer experience, and he’s already conducted experiments and worked side-by-side with marine toxicology experts and veterinarians.

“This internship provides such a unique opportunity – my most recent experiment included observing the behavioral changes caused by certain toxins among fish species,” he noted.

Mitchell now credits the program with his plans to continue focusing on marine ecology and furthering his education to become a veterinarian.

The Research Experience for Undergraduates program is funded by the National Science Foundation. It gives students studying in STEM fields who come from underserved and underrepresented minority groups an opportunity to learn more about scientific research and life as a marine scientist.

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab campus, surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound, is an ideal location for marine science study and research. Its unique geographic location provides researchers and students alike with resources and close proximity for research and application in the same setting. For more information on Dauphin Island Sea Lab and its University Programs, visit

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