A Passion for Marine Science


East Islip High School senior Kara M. Cellan followed in the footsteps of Sixto Portilla, scientific technical assistant at Dowling College’s Department of Earth and Marine Sciences, for Shadow Day — an initiative to provide hands-on opportunities for students to explore areas of interest and learn more about potential career paths.

Venturing to Dowling’s Center for Estuarine, Environmental and Coastal Oceans Monitoring (CEECOM), a research and field station located in West Sayville directly on the Great South Bay, Cellan helped Portilla with his daily routine. Together the pair harvested algae, fed the clams and horseshoe crabs living in many of the lab’s 15 tanks, and maintained life support systems necessary for two major projects: a horseshoe crab maintenance and breeding program and a clam nutrition study.

Cellan’s day continued at the Oakdale campus with a visit to the coral lab in the Kramer Science Center, where she was welcomed by Dr. John T. Tanacredi, chairman of the Department of Earth and Marine Sciences and director of CEECOM. At the coral lab, Cellan had a chance to observe the installation of a new 600-gallon tank that will house tropical coral reef organisms. She also helped a Dowling College senior set up software for an underwater video recording system which will be used to map underwater bottomland at three 25-acre sites in Great South Bay, through an agreement with the Town of Islip. The maps will help Dowling students design experiments aimed at learning how to make the bay’s bottom more attractive to clam larvae.

All in all, a busy day for any aspiring scientist. Cellan hopes to pursue a minor in psych bio to study marine mammal behavior. “I have always loved learning about the ocean and the animals that inhabit it, so today was an exciting experience,” said Cellan. “I loved seeing the horseshoe crabs and learning about the clams at CEECOM. Sixto taught me much more than I expected to learn in one day, and I appreciate each fact.”

Operated by the Dowling College department of earth and marine sciences, CEECOM contains a laboratory, saltwater well, and meeting space. It serves as a base for many of Dowling’s Earth and Marine Science programs, including the Long Island Horseshoe Crab Network Annual Horseshoe Crab Survey and a multi-year trend analysis of water quality in the Great South Bay. Its mission is to make hands-on research opportunities available to Dowling students, and to provide professional and academic researchers with data and analysis that advance knowledge about Long Island’s marine environment.