CHARLES LEAL

"I currently am an undergraduate senior attending Oregon State University for Environmental Science and Oceanography. I hope to one day work with fisheries and marine pollution to help mitigate and improve our ecosystems. I work mostly with Professor Byron Crump of CEOAS in his lab focusing on the ecology and genetic expressions of microbiomes in estuarial environments. I enjoy science and discovering ways that science can help with environmental issues. When I am not working on ecology I am working my alternative job playing drums and performing at music events in the band "Riptides to the Sky". I am a native to Oregon and have lived in the area for most of my life, I am of Hispanic and Sioux Native American decent and the first in my family to obtain a college degree.

My internship this summer will be working with NOAA’s fishery department studying the recent invasions of pyrosomes in the waters off the Oregon coast. Pyrosomes are a multicellular tunicate colonial organism, they are more commonly known as Sea Pickles. Occupation in these areas by pyrosomes are very new and are imposing adverse effects on our fisheries. Pyrosomes also consume a large amount of plankton, which could also impose adverse effects on our fishery ecosystems. Not much is known about these organisms effect on the environment, my studies will focus on their contribution to the biological carbon system and their influences on hypoxia and benthic food webs through assessing the rate of sinking, decomposition, and carbon contents when the organisms die.

I am looking forward to compiling new information on the effects of pyrosomes on our environments for future mitigation of these organisms. I am also exited to go out to sea on cruises to collect more pyrosomes for studies. Our goal is to bring back a pyrosome and keep it alive to assess their ecological behavior, something that has not been done before. I hope to better improve my skills as a scientist and gain experience for future ecological studies and for a professional career in using science to mitigate adverse ecological issues."

Check out Charles’s final REU presentation