Marine Biology, Hearing Loss, & Always Saying Yes

By Brook Blosser, ’21

I stumbled across marine biology accidentally. When I applied to North Carolina State University during my senior year in 2014, I initially applied for the chemistry program. When it asked you to select your second choice of desired major, I picked marine sciences. Why not? I figured it seemed interesting enough, and I could always switch to chemistry later. Fortunately for me, I was denied from the chemistry program. In 2014, I enrolled as a Freshman at NC State as a marine science major with a biological oceanography concentration. 

My hearing impairment was diagnosed when I was five years old. Throughout elementary and middle school, I wore hearing aids and made sure to always sit as close to the teacher as possible. Officially, I have mild to moderate hearing loss in both ears, though my left ear can hear slightly better than my right. My hearing loss is a pitch loss rather than a noise level loss. Basically, I have difficulty hearing low-pitched noises (think lawn mowers, men’s voices). Since I wasn’t diagnosed until I was five, I managed to teach myself to read lips. I can do it very well, and I haven’t worn hearing aids daily since high school. 

The most important thing I’ve done for my academic career was registering my disability with NC State’s Office of Disability Services (Center for Disability Services/SNAP at CofC). Official documentation of my disability helped me achieve an equitable experience in my courses, especially the classes with hundreds of students. My professors have been exceptionally accommodating throughout my college career, including letting me have reserved seating in the front, having captions on any videos in classes, and having a designated class notetaker who could share their notes with me if I missed any vital information during the lecture. Furthermore, I was a member of a student support services program at NC State. The program was staffed with counselors that were dedicated to helping undergraduate students with disabilities. Without my disability assistance and a tight-knit university support system pushing me towards success, I never would have been able to finish my undergraduate degree in four years (and with three minors!). 

When I enrolled at NC State for marine sciences, I had no idea what I was getting into. I figured that the best way to learn about the program and the field was to say yes to as many opportunities as possible. I read every single email from the marine sciences department. By the end of my freshman year, I was a member of the biology club, had started volunteering in the fish and invertebrates section of the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, North Carolina, and had secured a position conducting research in an applied ecology lab to study artificial reefs in the Bahamas. During my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to be selected to attend NC State’s first-ever Semester at the CMAST program, which allowed students to attend classes and conduct research at a world-class marine lab on the North Carolina coast. During my four years, I found that the more I said yes to some of the opportunities flooding my inbox, the more I could figure out exactly what I wanted to do in the field. Without saying yes, I never would have discovered a passion for marine biology, and I never would have made it to the master’s program in marine biology here at the College of Charleston. I’ve ever done some of the coolest things (drawing blood from sea turtles, assisting with a stranded pygmy sperm whale necropsy, presenting research at the National Undergraduate Research Symposium) been in marine biology, and I am so lucky to be a part of such a dynamic field. I would encourage students to say yes to find what you like and what you don’t. Opportunities are in excess in emailing listser’s (CTURTLE), job boards (Wildlife and Fisheries Job Board at Texas A&M), and from your own college professors (Gorka Sancho is the best with these)!

 As a graduate student at the College of Charleston’s marine biology program, I am working on determining microplastic content of oysters harvested from South Carolina estuaries. As I continue my education, I expect to continue to say yes to as many opportunities as possible. While being a hearing-impaired student has not been easy, I have found that resiliency in the face of adversity has helped me towards success.

Brooke Blosser is a third year Marine Biology Master’s candidate at the College of Charleston. She is completing her thesis research on microplastic content in oysters harvested for consumption in the state of South Carolina at the Citadel with Dr. John Weinstein. Brooke is also student body president of the Graduate Student Association. 

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