Tuesday, February 09, 1999

Aquarium nets NKU marine biology students

Interns seize Newport chance

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Four weeks ago, Mark Lewin was a fourth-year biology major at Northern Kentucky University who felt fortunate to be selected as an intern at the Oceanic Adventures Newport Aquarium.

        Monday, Mr. Lewin was still an NKU student, but he also was a new full-time employee of the aquarium, a trainee who will soon take charge of one of the new facility's exhibition galleries.

        “I'm absolutely elated,” the 37-year-old Fort Thomas resident said as he worked in the still-under-construction aquarium with other aquatic biologists. “This is exactly what I have always wanted to do. I didn't expect to be hired this soon, but it's great.”

        Mr. Lewin and another NKU student, Erica Ashcraft of Florence, were the latest additions to the aquarium intern program begun in mid-1998. Now there's an opening.

        So what's a Northern Kentucky man, a late bloomer on the college scene, doing in an aquarium taking care of swimming animals that inhabit oceans hundreds of miles away?

        “It took me a while to get to this point, but I've always had a fascination with oceans and fish, and the marine biology program at NKU has been just what I need,” he said.

        Although NKU's biology department doesn't specialize in marine biology, biology professor Jerry Carpenter conducts a class each summer at San Salvador Island in the Bahamas where students do extensive scuba diving, studying and collecting varieties of fish and plant life.

        Mr. Carpenter “is my adviser, and he's been a big help in getting me where I am at the aquarium,” Mr. Lewin said. In fact, Mr. Carpenter wrote a letter of recommenda tion pointing out that Mr. Lewin had the most marine biology experience of any student at NKU.

        Mr. Carpenter, the coordinator for the aquarium intern program at NKU, said Monday he teaches several biology courses, “but the marine biology course is my favorite. We have the only field-based marine biology course in the Greater Cincinnati area.”

        He said the proximity of the aquarium to NKU, coupled with the new university science center, “presents an excellent opportunity for all marine biology students, present or former, and others interested in marine biology in this area.”

        Mr. Lewin, a Highlands High School graduate, said he started college at the University of Kentucky nearly 20 years ago but then went in a different direction.

        “I spent six years in the Navy,” he said. “Because I love the ocean and fish, I tried to become a diver — but I was talked out of it. I did a great deal of scuba diving on my own over the years, however.”

        After the Navy, he said, he spent “a couple of years as an electrical engineer at Cape Canaveral. But I knew I needed to get back to school.”

        Similarly, Ms. Ashcraft, 26, spent several years working before enrolling at NKU. A sophomore biology major, she said she intends to concentrate on marine biology as a career.

        Mr. Lewin's principle area of responsibility will be the Shore Gallery, which will feature creatures that inhabit the oceans' shores and tidal pools.

        That exhibit will include an open tank where visitors will be able to touch star fish, hermit crabs and other shoreline inhabitants.


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