28 Oct 2022

SAU Faculty and Students Engage in Marine Biology and Ecology Field Experience Hosted by UNC-IMS

Left to Right: Dr. Tyrell Carr, Joevensky Seme, Dayona Siffrin, Raven McIntosh, Joyce Jepleting, Ruth Jepkogei, Jalonie Williams, and Professor Khadijah Payne.

Saint Augustine’s University (SAU)’s School of Science, Mathematics, and Allied Health faculty and students engaged in a Marine Biology and Ecology Field Experience hosted by University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences (UNC-IMS) associate professor Dr. Janet Nye on October 21-23, 2022, in Morehead City, NC. The Field Experience was featured on WRAL and supported partly by a $200,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to SAU in 2021. Dr. Tyrell Carr, chair of SAU’s Department of Biological and Physical Sciences, serves as the grant’s principal investigator.

On the first day of their field experience, SAU faculty and students evaluated fish species diversity within two locations of Back Sound. The students traveled by boat from UNC-IMS to the first location, an area of Back Sound with a high abundance of seagrass. With the help of UNC-IMS laboratory manager Richard Mahoney, students deployed a fishing net called a trawl to survey the fish population. The trawl is a large cone-shaped net pulled behind the boat and collects fish into a netted bag as the ship moves. When the trawl was complete, students drew the net onto the boat to count, measure, and identify each fish caught, directed by Dr. Janet Nye. Students recorded length, weight, and abundance data for red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus), pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides), white perch (Morone americana), summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), and spot (Leiostomus xanthurus). Next, using the same trawling methods, students collect data at the second location with no seagrass present. Students later analyzed their collected data and calculated Simpson’s Diversity Index to measure the diversity of fish species within areas with seagrass versus areas without seagrass.

Left to Right: Joyce Jepleting, Ruth Jepkogei, Jalonie Williams, Dr. Janet Nye (UNC- IMS), and Richard Mahoney (UNC-IMS).

The next day faculty and students traveled to Oyster Creek in Davis, North Carolina, where they were introduced to another method of fish sampling, seining. Seining is a fishing method that involves two individuals dressed in waders pulling a large net through the water up to the shore to collect and analyze their catch. Students caught red snappers (Lutjanus campechanus), summer flounders (Paralichthys dentatus), pipefish (Syngnathus fuscus), stone crabs (Menippe mercenaria), blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus), and other aquatic species.

SAU faculty and students spent the final day of their field experience traveling by kayak or boat to the Rachel Carson Reserve, located south of Beaufort, North Carolina. There faculty and students toured the natural habits and learned about the different ecosystems.

The participants in the field experience were as follows:


  • Joevensky Seme, Junior Biology Major
  • Dayona Siffrin, Sophomore Public Health Major
  • Raven McIntosh, Sophomore Biology Major
  • Joyce Jepleting, Senior Engineering Mathematics Major
  • Ruth Jepkogei, Sophomore Biology Major
  • Jalonie Williams, Freshman Biology Major


Dr. Janet Nye: Associate Professor at UNC – IMS and in the Department of Earth, Marine, and Environmental Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Research in the Nye group focuses on experimental, mathematical, and statistical methods to study fish populations and coastal ecosystems.

Professor Khadijah Payne: Completed a B.S. in Biology from Saint Augustine’s University (2018) and an M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Michigan – Ann Harbor (2020). Professor Payne joined the biology faculty at Saint Augustine’s University in the Fall of 2021 and taught courses in Fundamentals of Biology, Ecology, and Environmental Sciences while pursuing disease ecology research. In the Summer of 2022, she worked as a laboratory technician in the Laboratory of Dr. Janet Nye at UNC – IMS.

Dr. Tyrell Carr: Assistant Professor of Biology and Chair of the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences at Saint Augustine’s University. Dr. Carr’s group gears their research toward understanding the biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics of plant–environmental interactions.


Richard Mahoney: Lead Technician in the Laboratory of Dr. Janey Nye at UNC – IMS and navigated the boat and oversaw trawling and seining experiments.