Emilie Geissinger is a S08 Semester alumna and 2015 research intern currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. These days she’s traded tropical waters for colder temperatures, and she has The Island School to thank for that!

As a student at the Semester, Emilie immediately connected with the application-based learning she was doing. It was the first time she experienced this type of hands-on learning rather than simply reading from a textbook. She loved being able to SCUBA dive and see everything she was studying up close and personal. “To be perfectly honest, I was not very good at science in regular high school classes,” Emilie reflects. “I probably have really funny reports from teachers being like ‘Emilie struggles at X, Y, & Z.’ I think the applied side of things really got my attention and that’s carried through graduate school because I’ve never have to sit in a classroom for any of the work I do.”

As she continued her studies and decided to pursue a career in research, Emilie returned to campus for a research internship with the Cape Eleuthera Institute in 2015. While working with bonefish there, she solidified her interest in fish ecology and habitat work but also learned that working in the tropics was not for her. The long, hot days in the sun were difficult, so after her internship, she headed north to begin graduate school. 

Emilie dives in the cold waters around Newfoundland in a full dry suit when not doing research.

Today, Emilie dives and researches in the cold waters surrounding Newfoundland, although not simultaneously. She has carried her love for SCUBA diving with her north, where she now needs to wear a compressed neoprene dry suit. She’s even gone diving on New Year’s Day! When she’s not diving, she is actively studying juvenile cod and how they survive winter in Newfoundland, an area with a long history and a cultural significance with this species. Until the 1990s, there was a large cod fishing industry, at which time the industry collapsed and a national moratorium was put in place on the offshore fishery. Since this time, there hasn’t been a recovery of the cod population. Emilie’s research works with juvenile cod to better understand the early life history and relate it to recruitment dynamics of the offshore fishery. As she completes her thesis, a general summary of her findings is that if cod have food, they will survive. “If they have food over winter they survive. If they have enough food in the fall to build up energy in the winter, they survive. But if they don’t have food, they don’t have the energy to make it through.” There is still a lot that researchers are learning about the cod populations and food availability in the area. With work from Emilie and other researchers, Newfoundland will hopefully have a thriving cod population again one day.