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Marine study deepens UW-Stevens Point student’s passion for biology   

August 25, 2022
Lexi Kandziora holds a butterfly ray
Lexi Kandziora holds a butterfly ray aboard the Coastal Marine Education and Research boat. 

UW-Stevens Point sophomore Lexi Kandziora has been keenly interested in ocean life since she was a young child. After three weeks interning with Florida’s Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy, her drive to someday work in marine biology is stronger than ever. 

Kandziora was part of an intern team catching sharks and sting rays, recording measurements and genetics data, and tagging the species they caught. Their biggest catch was a 7.5-foot nurse shark caught in about 15 feet of water. Very early in the internship, she said, she set the nets and capably handled what the team reeled in.  

Associate Professor Brian Barringer, department chair of biology, was confident that Kandziora could excel and expand her interest in marine life through the internship in Clearwater, Florida. He connected her with the internship program. 

“Lexi came to me with a clear passion for science and wanting to be involved in hands-on research experiences. After talking with her about her broad interests in marine biology and ecology, this particular internship seemed like a perfect fit for her,” Barringer said. 

The Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy uses the student-collected data in its ongoing population study. Kandziora said during her time, they even discovered one sting ray recapture, previously tagged by the research group several years ago. 

Lexi Kandziora holds a big nurse shark
Lexi Kandziora holds a big nurse shark caught in her Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy summer internship in Florida.

They used long lines to catch larger species, and nets would catch the sting rays and smaller sharks. Her intern group also caught blacktip sharks, Atlantic sharks, and sea turtles—unintentionally.  

Working in the intense heat for an 8-hour stretch can be draining, she said, but they were able to jump in the ocean and cool off. 

“By the second week, new people would come in and I was leading new interns on the boat,” Kandziora said, “it got to be routine.” 

The chance to work directly with marine biologists with the ocean as your lab is truly rewarding work.  

“I’ve known I wanted to be in marine biology since I was little, and having my first experience involving marine life just showed how much I actually do love it! It is hard work but very rewarding,” she said. 

Kandziora grew up in Muskego, Wis. As the oldest of four children in her family, she is the only one pursuing a career working with marine life. The experience with the Coastal Marine Academy provides a tremendous experience for the work she might later pursue. In addition, it allows her to earn three credits toward her undergraduate degree in biology.  

Although she has only attended UW-Stevens Point for one year, Kandziora said she’s learned that professors seek out students frequently for research projects. 

“I would enjoy being part of a research opportunity. This internship has shown me how much I actually enjoyed the research part of it, as well as working with the animals. UWSP has been a great school, and I can’t wait for my next year,” Kandziora said. “UWSP has really helped me find my love for marine biology and environmental studies.”   

UW-Stevens Point students interested in internship opportunities related to their study area are encouraged to contact their adviser.