Mary Kate Munley '21

A Lifelong Lover of Marine Animals Finds Her Calling
Mary Kate Munley '21 during her internship in Sarasota, Florida

The passion of COLSA’s faculty and students convinced Mary Kate Munley '21 to attend UNH. Now, her own passion drives her to keep seizing opportunities and gaining the skills and knowledge she needs for a successful and rewarding career as a marine biologist.

COLSA: Looking back on your time at UNH so far, what are you most proud of and why?

Mary Kate Munley: I am most proud of how I have gotten better at taking initiative. UNH is full of so many opportunities and you need to be able to go after them.  As a freshman, one of the first days of classes I asked Professor Larry Harris if I could work in his lab. While working in his lab I have gained a lot of valuable experiences and have been able to work hands on with a lot of different marine invertebrates.  If I had not taken that initiative the first week of freshman year I never would have been able to gain the experiences that helped earn me an internship for the summer.

COLSA: What motivates you?

Munley: I have always loved the ocean and the organisms within it.  My curiosity really drives my motivation to succeed in my classes so I am prepared to go into the field.

This summer I was a Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program Intern at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. I absolutely loved being on the beach every day despite all the hard work. Collecting data on sea turtle nesting activities was an amazing experience. There was no feeling like being able to take data on a nest from when it was laid to the day it hatched.  From day one I knew that it was 100% what I want to do. 

After this summer, I am so much more motivated and driven because I have felt how rewarding working in conservation can be. I know that the classes and work I am doing at UNH is going to help me succeed and be able to do what I want as a career.

COLSA: Why did you choose your major?

Munley: I have wanted to be a marine biologist for as long as I can remember. I'm sure it had to do with my Animal Planet obsession in elementary school. As a big reader, I was always constantly reading about the ocean, dolphins and whales. The more I read about the ocean, the more I wanted to learn. I have always loved the beach so marine biology was a natural fit. There is so much we don't know and so many things to learn about, which I love.  I considered other majors while looking at colleges but deep down I knew that I would never be as happy doing something else.

COLSA: What are you planning to do after graduation?

Munley: As of now I am planning on going to graduate school for marine biology. I haven't decided if I want to take a year off to work after graduation but, I have a little more time before I make that decision.

COLSA: How is your experience at UNH preparing you to achieve your goals?

Munley: Starting freshman year, I took Marine Immersion at Shoals Marine Laboratory. That experience taught me so much about research and writing a research paper. I worked with a group of three other students to conduct a research project, write a research paper and present on it. This was the first real exposure I had to actual research. I really enjoyed being able to work to answer a question we had. The experience gave me a supportive group of friends that share my passion for marine biology and field skills.

In addition to this, I have learned so much working in Professor Harris's lab. I helped construct panels for sea urchin recruitment and fed the various invertebrates we have in the lab.  Working in the lab is always my favorite part of the week. I love getting to feed the organisms and see how much they have grown. These experiences have given me valuable skills and the confidence to pursue more opportunities in the field of marine biology.

COLSA: Any advice for students interested in your major?

Munley: My biggest piece of advice would be to do Marine Immersion your freshman year.  I made so many wonderful friends and I learned so much about marine biology and doing research.

Everyone I know who didn't do Marine Immersion wishes they did.  My second piece of advice would be to get into a lab.  I have learned so much working in lab and it helped me so much when applying to summer internships.

COLSA: Finally, tell us one reason you love UNH.

Munley: I went to accepted students day for COLSA and during the information session I could see how passionate the students and faculty were about what they were doing. You could just hear in their voices how excited they were about their work and how much they enjoyed talking to you about it. Of all the colleges I visited, UNH was the one that blew me away by how passionate they were. I got excited just by listening to them, and I knew this was the place for me.

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