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Ashton Bandy

The ocean has always held great significance in my life. My father is a retired Navy Officer and, as a result of his career, I spent all my life minutes away from the ocean. While my father was stationed in Hawaii, my parents lied about my age so I could swim with dolphins. This was the moment I knew I was going to become a marine scientist. The overwhelming vibrancy of the ocean that captured my imagination and curiosity as a child persists within me today. Life went on after my family and I moved from Hawaii, and 4 moves later I found myself attending George Mason University. In 2015, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and returned to Hawaii to work for the State Division of Aquatic Resources as a Database Assistant and Field Technician. It was my time in Hawaii that taught me to love every part of our earth from “mauka to makai,” or “from the mountains to the ocean,” learning how everything is intrinsically connected. 

In joining this department’s phytoplankton lab, I hope to gain insight through the study of these vital organisms. Phytoplankton comprise the base of the aquatic food chain and are the main food source for a vast amount of ocean creatures. These microscopic photosynthetic algae are incredibly important for healthy marine ecosystems to thrive. Researchers are discovering, however, that climate change could affect phytoplankton in a very negative way. My goal is to impact our understanding of the role phytoplankton play in the vast ocean ecosystem in tandem with how climate change and ocean acidification will consequently influence that community. As for my personal goals, I am extremely passionate about conserving our natural resources and biodiversity, as well as striving to do everything I can in my own life to reduce my footprint for the well-being of our planet.

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