Sabine gains boatload of knowledge as UW ocean intern

While Dylan Sabine may not know exactly what he would like to be when he grows up, he does know he would like to pursue a career in marine science.

While Dylan Sabine may not know exactly what he would like to be when he grows up, he does know he would like to pursue a career in marine science.

And this summer, the 16-year-old Redmond resident’s interest in the field was solidified after he participated in a month-long internship through the University of Washington’s (UW) School of Oceanography.

The ocean intern program — now in its second year — was developed from middle and high school programs the School of Oceanography has run for the past decade. Administrators decided to augment their smaller after-school programs into an internship after hearing about the benefits of internships and wages on young students.

The competitive program — Sabine was one of 10 students selected from a pool of about 100 applicants — ran through most of July.

“I was excited,” Sabine said about being selected as he really wanted the internship, which is open to high school students entering their sophomore, junior or senior years in high school.

The main reason Sabine, who will be a junior at Lake Washington High School in Kirkland, really wanted the internship was because the program gives students a lot of hands-on and lab experience. Students went out on a boat — the R/V Clifford Barnes — to collect water samples from throughout the Puget Sound area. They collected samples from various depths, from Everett to Tacoma. From these samples, Sabine said they would spend time in the lab, analyzing the sediment cores.

Their samples will be used for research on subjects ranging from water acidification to pollution. Some of the data collected by the interns will be used by the university in its research and publications, while the pollution data will be passed on to local nonprofit Sound Citizen. The water acidification data will contribute to state and federal databases.

Sabine said they worked with graduate students, who did a really good job of keeping the high schoolers informed of what was going on and what they were doing.

“It was pretty close to what I was expecting,” he said about the experience.

One of the goals of the program is to get more local teens interested in science-based careers, realize the relationship between humans and the earth and learn about the community at the university.

“I think it’s really important for the university itself,” said UW professor Rick Keil. “We have this reputation of being an ivory tower, but we’re all just people.”

Sabine said in addition to the scientific work they did, the students also learned about UW and what it is like on campus. They spoke with current students at the university and even participated in a scavenger hunt around campus.

For Sabine, the internship was not his first time on the UW campus, but it was his first time in the Ocean Sciences Building.

The ocean intern program specifically looks for students who are casually interested in science, hoping to introduce them to the possibilities of a career in science.

“There are plenty of really smart high school kids who have plenty of opportunities,” Keil said. “We want first-timers.”

In addition to the lab and analyzing work they did, the student interns learned how to use the variety of scientific machinery on board the R/V Clifford Barnes. The different tools oceanographers use are often specially made for certain projects, unlike in other fields.

For Sabine, his favorite part of the internship was being on the vessel. He said as interns, they had a larger part in the experience — deciding where to go and where to collect samples — than he expected.

One aspect of the internship that did meet his expectations was the level of work they put in during their month. Sabine said they faced a few challenges here and there when instruments wouldn’t work or when samples got contaminated. But he did learn that in science, you just have to go on and keep working.

“I expected it to be pretty difficult,” Sabine said.

Allison DeAngelis of the Bellevue Reporter contributed to this report.