April 05, 2011
Erin Tate ’11 was selected by the Office of Career Services as UT’s first Intern of the Year.
Erin Tate ’11 spent hours watching videos of sand tiger sharks circling
in their tanks, looking for the slightest clues as to why this type of
shark develops more spinal deformities in captivity than other kinds of
Tate was an animal behavior research intern at the
Florida Aquarium during the 2009-2010 academic year. Working with
researchers, she analyzed data, interpreted the results, presented her
findings at the Sixth International Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health
and will publish her results in a research journal. This spring Tate was
selected by the Office of Career Services as UT’s first Intern of the
“I was nervous speaking at the conference, but I learned
how to collect myself around other scientists, networked with colleagues
and gained composure in speaking in front of a big audience,” said
Tate, of Ridge Farm, IL. “I was so proud when it was done. It’s
definitely going to be one of my best memories.”
is wildlife, specifically field research, animal behavior and husbandry
of animals in captivity. During her internship she spent many weekends
scoring data, giving up her social life for research but being immersed
in the scientific process and designing experiments.
“I had to
learn a sense of personal responsibility,” said Tate, a biology major.
“There were times when it was repetitious and tedious, but I knew it
would add up to a greater goal and that was worth it.”
she helped discover, as part of a bigger research project on the
swimming behavior of sharks, a correlation between tank size and spinal
“I hope the research enhances the welfare for sharks, making life better for them in captivity,” she said.
Huber, the assistant professor of biology who introduced Tate to the
internship opportunity, said Tate’s experience was enhanced by her
willingness to learn.
“She fully engaged herself in the project
instead of just going through the motions, which resulted in her being
an important collaborator alongside various people with doctoral degrees
and degrees in veterinary medicine,” said Huber, a shark expert. “Her
data collection and analysis has helped us to identify the behavioral
signs of developing spinal deformities in these sharks, which will
hopefully lead to early diagnoses and treatment of these animals.”
Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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