A Day with a RA – Raven Ferguson

This week on A Day with a GA we caught up with Raven Ferguson. Raven is a second year Marine Biology student and is the Research Assistant for the NOAA NCCOS Ecotoxicology Branch at Hollings Marine Lab. We loved learning more about what Raven does as a Research Assistant!!


Name: Raven Ferguson
Hometown: Monticello, MS
Graduate Program/Year: I am in my second year in the Graduate Program in Marine Biology.
Previous Education (Undergrad and/or Grad): I received my BS in Ecology and Organismal Biology from The University of Southern Mississippi.
Office or Department you work for: I am a research assistant for the NOAA NCCOS Ecotoxicology Branch at Hollings Marine Lab on James Island.
What are your assistantship responsibilities? I am mainly responsible for conducting research for my graduate thesis. My research focuses on examining the impact of No. 2 fuel oil on short- and tall-forms of saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), a species that is vital to our marsh environments. I aim to determine whether the two forms respond differently to No. 2 fuel oil to help inform response and restoration efforts after oil spills. My responsibilities often involve reading literature related to my research, collecting seeds, plants, and sediment from the field, taking care of plants in the NOAA greenhouse, collecting data on plant growth and survival after being exposed to No. 2 fuel oil, and then analyzing that data. I also help with other research projects within my group at NOAA looking at the impact of various contaminants on numerous organisms like grass shrimp, mud snails, and oysters.
What do you like most about your position? I enjoy being able to do research for my job. I have wanted to work with an agency like NOAA for a long time, and through this position I am learning many skills that will be helpful in my future career.
What question do you get asked most and what’s your typical answer? When talking about my research, I often get asked about why it is important. I tell people that my research as well as research conducted by my advisor, Dr. Paul Pennington, helps us learn how to better restore marshes after oil spills. Oil spills can cause the saltmarsh cordgrass found in a marsh to die. Since those plants are important for preventing erosion and providing food for other marsh organisms, our marshes cannot exist without them. Therefore, one method of restoring a marsh after an oil spill is to plant new saltmarsh cordgrass. Our research helps determine the best methods of planting a marsh after a spill.
What’s your favorite location on campus and why? My favorite location is the area along Charleston Harbor behind Grice Marine Lab. I like to walk along the water and look for crabs, dolphins, raccoons, and other animals.
What personal and/or professional accomplishment are you most proud of? During my undergraduate degree, I was awarded a Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad at the University of Exeter in England. I never thought I would be able to spend a semester studying abroad, so I am really grateful for that opportunity.
Name a creative work (book, movie, performance, etc.) you enjoyed recently and why. I love to read, and my favorite book this year has been Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. This book is set in a future version of the United States that has been severely impacted by climate change and wealth inequality. Therefore, it highlights some important issues that we should be concerned about today.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Charleston? I enjoy visiting all the parks around Charleston. I am currently trying to find which park has the best trails for roller skating, and so far my favorites are Riverfront Park and Palmetto Islands County Park.
Favorite Restaurant in Charleston. Jack of Cups Saloon on Folly Beach. Their menu changes seasonally, and they always have good, unique options as well as a great location.
Describe your perfect day. I like to go camping, so my perfect day consists of waking up in a tent in a cool location, drinking bad instant coffee cooked on a camp stove, spending the morning hiking, and then laying around camp in my hammock reading in the afternoon. 

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