Ashley Blawas at sea
Photo Credit
Courtesy of Ashley Blawas

Bass Connections Launched my Marine Conservation Career

Ashley Blawas B.S.E.'18 participated in a Bass Connections marine science project as an undergraduate and parlayed that into continued involvement in Bass Connections in her role as a Ph.D. student in Marine Science and Conservation. Here, she recalls how her first Bass Connections project launched a career connecting engineering and marine science.

As a marine mammal physiologist, I get to study some of the most extreme animals and try to understand how they are adapted to function in such a challenging environment as the ocean. A skill that is key to answering many of the pressing questions in my field is the ability to understand an organism as a complex set of systems that are engineered to deal with the factors that make their lifestyle difficult.

For example, life as a mammal in the ocean requires an animal like a dolphin to divide its time between diving for food underwater and breathing air at the surface. These organisms have many physiological adaptations, including increased blood volume and more oxygen-carrying hemoglobins that make their cardiovascular systems ideally engineered to deal with this challenge.

I owe my introduction to marine science and ocean engineering at Duke largely to my participation in the History and Future of Ocean Energy Bass Connections team as an undergraduate student.