By: Madeline Marriott ’24

Eurnett Christopher ’25 loves coral—not the pinkish-orange color, but the marine invertebrate found in tropical waters. From an internship in Florida to an upcoming study abroad program in Turks and Caicos, Christopher is diving into the world of coral ecology with one goal in mind: bringing that knowledge back to her home in the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

“I remember this one beach growing up called Coki Point Beach where we would always see such bright corals,” she says. “Ever since some of the hurricanes that happened in 2017 and with climate change, the corals that I used to love seeing are just gone, and it’s such a sad thing.”

“I think that’s what motivated me to pursue coral ecology to try to restore the corals, especially back home and around the Florida Keys,” she continues. 

Eurnett Christopher smiles

The environmental science major and data science minor will be studying abroad in Turks and Caicos this spring after earning a Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) SFS Access Partner Scholarship Award. She is the first Lafayette student to receive such an award from the FEA. 

From January to May, Christopher will be taking courses in tropical marine ecology, principles of marine resource management, and marine conservation governance, alongside coral lab research. 

“I fell in love with the Turks and Caicos program when I saw that the School for Field Studies prioritizes community engagement,” she says. “Every single month, they tell the community what they’re doing and look for insight. 

“Having that marine science research base plus talking to the locals is what you have to do to be successful,” she continues. 

Christopher has already racked up experience in the world of coral research—last summer, an internship through a National Science Foundation grant brought her to a Sarasota, Florida, marine laboratory where she studied stony coral tissue loss disease. 

Christopher and her team studied the rate of infection for healthy coral when diseased coral were introduced to the reef. From there, they could determine how to move forward with removal of coral to stop the spread of the disease. 

Tissue loss disease is not the only marine health issue Christopher has explored during her college career. In between working as a supplemental instructor for Chemistry I and II, serving as the secretary of Le Cercle Francophone, rowing on the crew team, and balancing memberships in the Association of Black Collegians (ABC) and the NIA Sisterhood, Christopher also conducts research with Megan Rothenberger, associate professor of biology.

Christopher’s on-campus research team focuses on aquatic life in the Bushkill Creek— specifically, mussels. The group is working on the “mussel restoration project,” a decade-long effort to remove several dams and reintroduce mussels to the creek.

“We have 10 sites that we’ve monitored this semester in total,” Christopher says. “We catch macroinvertebrates to see how healthy the dams are, and we look at depth and velocity to see which areas are most suitable for certain mussel species. 

“Using that information—it’s 14 years worth of data that we’ve been getting—we determine whether a dam should be removed, and I’m using that information to see where we should put the mussels to reestablish themselves.” 

Christopher encourages students to seize all of the opportunities Lafayette has to offer. “It’s what you make of it,” she says. “Take advantage of everything at Lafayette.

Eurnett Christopher smiles“Students might think they can’t do something because of their financial situation, but take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you so you can excel right now,” she continues. 

Christopher first learned of Lafayette when she came to campus in 2015 through the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program as one of the first scholars from the Virgin Islands. 

“When I was applying for colleges, I knew I needed something small and close-knit like Lafayette showed me that day,” she says. “This is a really strong community, and I’ve met some really amazing people who have given me advice and I’ll forever be in debt to.” 

Christopher feels that Lafayette has given her the opportunity to take risks and try new things— something that she wants to do whenever possible. 

“I just tried ice skating for the first time, I did trapezing in Florida with a girl who was in a famous circus for over a decade— I just want to be completely exhilarated.” 

“I always say, ‘Why not? Sign me up.’”

Categorized in: Academic News, Data Science, Environmental Science, Featured News, News and Features, Scholarships and Fellowships, Student Profiles, Students, Study Abroad

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