From Ocean Academy Student to BIOS Research Technician

In October, Bermudian Jessica Godfrey, 22, was hired as a research technician by two BIOS faculty members to assist in their busy laboratory. She first came to BIOS in 2018 when she was a student.

Growing up in Bermuda, Jessica Godfrey developed a fascination with the local corals and other sea life. While attending the island’s Saltus Grammar School, she studied oceanography, narrowing her interest to marine biology.

As a life-long island resident, Godfrey said, “I’ve always known about BIOS but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I really understood the Institute’s work.” During a family conversation about her interest in continuing the study of marine biology while attending Newcastle University in England, her brother suggested applying for BIOS’s Bermuda Program. This program serves as the pinnacle of BIOS’s Ocean Academy and provides direct access to discovery, networking, training, and mentorship for local students by BIOS’s research team.

In 2018, Godfrey was accepted into the program and worked with former BIOS reef ecologist and faculty member Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley to count coral larval release for research on coral condition and reproduction. Eager to explore other topics in marine science, she participated the following year in the Institute’s Marine Plankton Ecology course instructed by zooplankton ecologists and BIOS faculty members Leocadio Blanco-Bercial and Amy Maas.

“For many students, internships serve as stepping stones to additional opportunities, including employment,” said Kaitlin Noyes, director of education and community engagement at BIOS. Reflecting on Godfrey’s involvement at the Institute, she said, “Her work as a BIOS research technician is a testament to her talent and diligence as well as a reflection of the quality of mentorship that BIOS has to offer.”

Her work includes processing plankton samples taken offshore Bermuda and utilizing the ZooSCAN, a waterproof, flatbed scanner that generates high-resolution images of tiny marine animals in order to tally the abundance of individuals and record vital metrics on their size and shape. Godfrey is focusing on image analysis of pteropods, as their snail-like shells are especially sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry.

The opportunities provided by BIOS’s Bermuda Program allowed Godfrey to develop as a researcher while studying marine biology in the United Kingdom, said her mentor Sara Marsham, the acting dean of education at Newcastle University. When Godfrey returned to Newcastle to resume her studies after her BIOS internship, “the progress she had made was evident and she was able to use her experiences at BIOS to complete her final year research project,” Marsham said. “I watched her grow into a confident and capable researcher and I am delighted with the success she has achieved.”

“It really is a great match,” said Maas, who hopes to hire Godfrey full time. “She plans to stay on-island, she has participated in our work, and she is developing all the skill sets necessary to support both our needs and that of the wider oceanographic community.”

For Godfrey, her goal now is to further her career in marine research. BIOS, she said, offers a supportive community, with helpful mentors who have provided career advice and an opportunity to develop laboratory skills.