MeiLin Precourt examines an otilith in a lab, an inner ear bone in vertabrates (including humans) that detects linear acceleration. (Provided)

MeiLin Precourt examines an otilith in a lab, an inner ear bone in vertabrates (including humans) that detects linear acceleration. (Provided)

Claremont student earns prestigious science mentorship

MeiLin Precourt the only Canadian in fisheries biology program

A Claremont Secondary School student, MeiLin Precourt, has been chosen as one of only 26 students from across Canada and the United States to participate in the prestigious Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program.

The program is an innovative education program sponsored by the American Fisheries Society (AFS) designed to stimulate interest in careers in fisheries science and management among groups underrepresented in the fisheries professions, including minorities and women. Application to the program is open to all rising 11th through graduating senior high school students regardless of race, creed, or gender. Because the program seeks to increase diversity within the fisheries professions, qualified women and minority applicants are strongly encouraged to apply. Each student chosen for the program is awarded a $4,000 scholarship and is matched with a professional mentor for a summer-long, hands-on experience in fisheries science. Precourt was the only Canadian high schooler selected.

“I actually had never heard about the Hutton project until my biology teacher told me about it, just 72 hours before the application deadline,” explained Precourt.

“I’ve always been interested in biology so this work is perfect for me and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.”

Precourt is working with her mentor, Francis Juanes, a fisheries ecologist from the biology department at the University of Victoria. He has worked in the field collecting invertebrates and their fish predators to understand how microplastics are accumulating in marine organisms and transferring up the food chain.

“When we bring in a fellow they generally have a project they focus on, but we try to give them experience in a lot of areas to give them a better overview of the work that’s possible in the field,” said Juanes.

Juanes is engaged in a broader study to study the diet of large salmon, particularly Chinook or Coho, which he said is valuable because their winter diets are largely unknown. Precourt herself will analyze stomach contents of Chinook and Coho salmon caught by local anglers to understand how the salmon diet changes seasonally in southern British Columbia. Herring are an important food source for Chinook and Coho salmon, so by analyzing their remains within a salmon’s stomach (specifically the otiliths, or ear bones that detect linear acceleration), scientists can learn more about the size and origins of the herring, and see how the salmon and herring affect each other in the environment.

In the two-month program, Precourt will also collect samples in the field in order to provide a variety of experiences beyond lab work.

“MeiLin has displayed incredible attention to detail and patience in her approach to the work in the lab, but has also shown a real flair for her work in the field.”

As evidenced by the final reports of students and mentors who have participated in the Hutton Program, the students benefit substantially from their summer mentoring experience.

For most students, the Hutton Program is their first exposure to a professional work setting where they learn what qualities are necessary to be successful in that environment and the importance of being able to function well as part of a team.

The students also gain an awareness of conservation issues and the importance of healthy aquatic systems; participate in projects that benefit habitat restoration, protection, and management; and gain an understanding of what is involved in being a fisheries biologist and of the career opportunities available in the field.

“This experience has really inspired me,” said Precourt.

“I’ll be graduating a year early and plan to take a year to travel, but when I get back I’m seriously looking at continuing my education in the field of oceanography.”

In Hutton’s 13th year, AFS received 150 student applications from across the United States and Canada, and selected 26 applicants to receive scholarships and mentorships. Of the exceptional students chosen for the Hutton this summer, nearly two-thirds are minorities, and over half are females.

This summer, Hutton Scholars will be working with their mentors in British Columbia, Canada and 14 states.

These include California, Idaho, Texas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Florida, Hawaii, West Virginia as well as Puerto Rico.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)
Hospice provides compassion in a time of COVID

Victoria Hospice 40th anniversary on pause during pandemic

Look for the Random Act of Kindness Day colouring contest in Black Press issues Jan. 17. Physical entries can be mailed or dropped off to local Black Press offices. A scanned or photographed entry can be emailed to info@victoriafoundation.bc.ca. Winning entries can get a $50 gift card to Bolen Books and a $100 donation to a charity of their choice from the VIctoria Foundation. (Pixabay)
Colouring contest coming for Kindness Day

Kindness Day colouring contest in partnership with Victoria Foundation

Sidney has moved the remaining parts of its public consultation phase part of the Official Community Plan online. (Black Press Media File)
Sidney moves to an ‘all online engagement’ process for OCP

Staff says OCP charrette scheduled for mid-February

(File photo)
‘Very lucky’: Two passengers, dog escape rollover crash in Saanich unscathed

Vehicle flips on Trans Canada Highway after hitting median, possibly due to ice, firefighter says

The large metal gate stolen from Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich on Jan. 18 reappeared less than a week later. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Large metal gate stolen from Saanich farm makes mysterious reappearance

12-foot gate returned to Muddy Valley Farm less than a week after it was stolen

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Most Read