Alumni Spotlight: Jake Snyder, ‘14

This week’s Alumni  Spotlight shines on Jake Snyder, UMM Class of 2014 with a degree in Marine Biology. Jake lives in Canterbury, Connecticut, and is a research assistant at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point.


Tell us a little bit about what you are doing now:

Currently, I am a research assistant at UConn Avery Point as part of my masters.  I was accepted into the graduate program here in the fall of 2015, and I am now working towards my Masters in Biological Oceanography.  Our lab is small, with myself, a doctoral student, and our advisor, but we’re ambitious.  Our research is focused on the synergistic effects of ocean acidification, increased temperature, and decreased oxygen on the Atlantic Silverside (Menidia menidia), a near-shore schooling fish. We’ve also recently started working with the Northern Sandlance (Ammodytes dubius), a fish native to Stellwagen Bank.  In addition to the lab-based research, I am also digitizing the ~40 year data set collected by Project Oceanology, and developing that into a searchable database as part of the LISICOS (Long Island Sound Integrated Coastal Observing System) system.

What is the most valuable thing you learned while at UMM?

At UMM, I learned to take advantage of as many opportunities as you can, within reason.  You may end up being busier than expected, but I’ve found that if you don’t jump to the occasion when asked, that opportunity will likely not present itself for much longer.

Do you have any advice for current students at UMM?

Study what you’re passionate about outside of class—the classes you take are a great starting point, but if you’re really interested in a specific topic, make it into a project.  There’s the opportunity to tailor your classes and schedule to your specific interests, and make sure you take advantage of that.  I was able to formulate a “special topics in mariculture” class where I spent the entire semester learning how to rear Arctic Surf Clam (Mactromeris polynyma) larvae.

How did your time at UMM prepare you for what you are doing now?

UMM prepared me for what I’m doing now by way of two dedicated and passionate professors, Dr. Brian Beal and Dr. Gayle Kraus.  Dr. Kraus has a way of getting you interested in a topic, even if you aren’t that interested to begin with.  A perfect example was the ornithology class I took with her; I started the class with little interest in birds, and now I find myself ID’ing birds when out with NOAA on Stellwagen collecting our Sandlance.  Dr. Beal taught me that, with determination and many hours of studying and hard work, you can accomplish anything.  I was never much of a math-guy, and now I find myself more interested in statistics and experimental work than I thought possible.

The confidence and ease I have in social and professional situations are a direct result of my time spent as the Student Representative to the Board of Trustees.  It was there that I learned the skills of presentation, communication, and professionalism.

How has UMM made a positive impact on your life?

UMM was the place where I learned how interested in fish ecology I am; UMM was the place where I started my photography business; UMM was the place that introduced me to hiking the beautiful coast of Maine.  I made some really great friends, learned a lot, stayed busy, and graduated with the abilities and knowledge needed to succeed in my graduate career and in life.