Taijym Deloney, born in Wittenberg in 2023, has always been interested in aquatic life. Growing up he loved fishing and spending time on the lake, so the chance to study at Duke University Marine Lab (DUML) in Beaufort, North Carolina this fall semester is like a dream come true for the senior, who researches ecology and nature conservation there.
Though it’s a stressful process, Deloney says he’s “extremely blessed to have been given this opportunity to learn in the lab for free.” A biology major and marine science minor from Richmond, Indiana, he received a scholarship to attend the Duke Marine Lab.
“I love science and have always been fascinated by aquatic life, especially fish. Whether I was spending the day at the lake or fishing, I was always by the water,” Deloney said. “Even at home, the only pets I’ve ever had were fish. I had several exotic species of freshwater fish including spotted gar, redtail catfish, pacu fish and many more. Then, when I was in high school, I did an AP in Environmental Sciences and learned how humans affect terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. That’s when I decided I wanted to pursue a career in marine science.”
While at DUML, Deloney conducts an independent study and works with David Gill and his Ph.D. Pupils.
“I help them with their research on how conflicts such as war, deaths, climate change, etc. affect marine fisheries and how we can better prepare for them in the future,” he added.
Wittenberg has a partnership with the DUML, where students interested in marine or environmental science can visit the lab for a semester. Deloney learned of the grant through his advisor and professor of biology, Kathy Reinsel, of the George C. Greenawalt Endowed Chair in Biology at Wittenberg, who was completing her Ph.D. and received his PhD from DUML.
“One of my favorite things about Wittenberg is the opportunity to work with students for four years,” said Reinsel. “I met Tai on his first day at Witt and since then I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him and watching him grow and mature as a student. He is such a hardworking student and I am so proud of his achievements. It has been particularly fun this semester to be able to take a sabbatical at the marine lab and most importantly to be able to share in his excitement while diving deep into his passion for studying marine science and marine conservation. It will be exciting to see how his journey to Witt continues.”
The DUML Scholarship is typically awarded to a non-Duke student who identifies with a group that is racially/ethically underrepresented in marine science, is pursuing an advanced degree, and has an interest in marine science and its impact on society. Deloney learned last spring that he was a scholarship recipient, making him the third Wittenberg student to receive the award. Taylor Adams, Class of 2021 received it two years ago and Jasmine Evans, Class of 2021 received it last year to complete a post baccalaureate.
“This experience will help shape my future goals in marine science and the path I want to take,” said Deloney. “I have a keen interest in sharks, fish and marine fisheries and conservation because I grew up passionate about fish species in general. The goal will be to go to graduate school and advance my career related to fish conservation and marine fisheries. College experiences like this will help me achieve my career goal because I can communicate and connect with others.”
Opportunities Deloney has enjoyed so far this semester while at DUML include completing a shark catch survey and dolphin necropsy, working at the Duke Oyster Farm, kayaking and beach visits, aquariums, school trips, swimming and much more fishing. Looking ahead to graduate school, Deloney is confident that the DUML opportunity and a recent undergraduate summer research experience (REU) he discovered with Reinsel’s help will help his resume stand out. Last spring, Reinsel and Deloney examined summer REU programs through the National Science Foundation.
“We found two that I was very interested in — an REU at Southern Mississippi University and an INFISH program in Maine,” he said. “I applied, was accepted to both, and decided to go to Mississippi for a 10-week fiddler crab research program.”
Deloney also traveled to Panacea, Fla., as part of the internship to conduct his own research project on how temperature and female presence affect surface and burial durations in fiddler crabs. He also helped another student with her research on blue crabs.
“I set traps to catch blue crabs and once we found them, we measured and tagged the females before releasing them,” he said. “This internship had a major impact on my future in marine sciences. I’ve worked with some great students and my boss has been very helpful. I enjoyed every part of this internship. I was able to ask many questions about my next steps and their experiences when they were in my situation. Additionally, this internship helped me visualize what grad school would be like—the friendships I will form, the helpful resources and connections I can make, the workload, and what I will focus on when I attend grad school. “
After graduating from Wittenberg in May this year, Deloney will most likely work from home and apply to graduate schools or another internship program to gain more experience and build more connections for his next step in marine science.
“A final career path for me would be to do something with fish and sharks, whether it’s research, working in an aquarium, teaching kids about marine life and how to protect them, or swimming with these fish/sharks as an underwater photographer or a ship’s captain – me.” can not Hardly Wait.”
At the same time, Deloney, who is involved with several clubs on campus including the Marine Science Club, Witt Hoops Club, Outdoor Club and Fishing Club, said he will miss Wittenberg.
“I enjoyed Wittenberg in every respect and couldn’t wish for anything better,” he said. “I have met excellent people who I will call lifelong friends and the faculty have been very helpful during my four years at Witt. I struggled in my sophomore year because of COVID. My grades were terrible because online learning is not my forte; I’m more of a hands-on learner. But I have matured and grown as a student and have come to understand that studying, time management and speaking to your professors/advisors are very important. Because of my ability to communicate with others, the relationships I’ve forged with my professors, and my ability to weather difficult times, I now feel better prepared to take the next step in my professional interest in marine sciences.”