What started as a volunteer role at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science morphed into a passion and a career path for Miram Gleiber ’10, M.S. ’14.
Miram, now a graduate student at VIMS, started working as a volunteer in VIMS’ Zooplankton Ecology Lab during her sophomore year. She also participated in month-long research cruises to the western Antarctic Peninsula and the Amazon River plume in the tropical west Atlantic.
“Through these experiences, I gained a fascination for zooplankton and I greatly enjoyed working with the lab, especially my adviser and mentor, Dr. Debbie Steinberg,” Miram said. “I would not be where I am today without both VIMS and William & Mary’s support of undergraduate research.”
Steinberg, a VIMS professor of marine science, advised Miram as she worked on her honors thesis project, which looked at zooplankton fecal pellets that are collected in a marine sediment trap. Miram recalls finding unusual, but “awesome” samples of krill fecal pellets and showing them to Steinberg, showcasing how passionate VIMS’ faculty and students are about their research.
“I knew Debbie would be as excited as I was, if not more so, to check out this nifty poo,” Miram said. “So she came down to check it out. We spent quite some time zooming in and zooming out on the microscope on these curly poop pieces from krill.”
Miram’s honors thesis research is now being published in the scholarly journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.
Her current research supports a project looking at the impact of climate change in the western Antarctic Peninsula. She is studying the abundance and distribution of copepod species, small shrimp-like crustaceans, along the peninsula during the past two decades to determine if there have been changes in their numbers and locations.
“This region is important because it is one of the fastest warming areas on Earth, causing loss of sea ice that impacts the entire food chain,” Miram said. “The copepods are a major gap in our knowledge in the regions’ food web, and my research will fill this gap.”
Miram also is a teaching assistant for a two-week undergraduate field study course at VIMS’ Eastern Shore Lab for the William & Mary marine science minor. She plans to eventually earn a doctorate in zooplankton ecology.
Miram said her student experience at VIMS, including a “thorough” curriculum, research and the ability to attend and present at conferences, has “far surpassed” expectations. Private gifts to the VIMS Impact Fund help make experiences and research like Miram’s possible.
“Considering the changing climate on this planet, my research and experiences through the research cruise are definitely preparing me for a changing world,” she said.