Getting to Know U

Noelle Van Ee

Getting to Know U

Noelle Van Ee

Hometown:
New York
Intended Degree:
Ph.D. Marine Geology and Geophysics

Noelle Van Ee

Noelle Van Ee is an accidental geologist. Raised in upstate NY, Noelle relished family vacations on the coast in the Outer Banks, NC and Daytona Beach, FL. It wasn’t until her father took a temporary job in Australia when she was 11, however, that she encountered her true love: Coral reefs. “Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef as a child had a profound influence on my motivation to go into marine sciences, I was completely entranced by this incredible ecosystem full of color and life and I wanted to hold my breath until I could unravel all of its beautiful secrets. I decided right then and there that I was going to become a marine biologist, mostly because I didn’t know at the time that there was any other type of marine scientist!” Noelle pursued her dream with determination and passion, securing a scholarship to study Marine Science and Biology at the University of Miami.

Her plans took an unexpected turn her sophomore year when she had to take a Marine Geology lab as part of the course requirements for her double major. “The Geology Department at UM has such excellent educators, Drs. Terri Hood and Don McNeill opened my eyes to an entire branch of Marine Science I didn’t know existed! I was enthralled by their enthusiasm and how geology enabled a very holistic approach to answering questions about reef ecosystems. Hungry for more, I took the course Reefs Through Time with Dr. Hal Wanless. That’s when I knew that I didn’t want to be chained to a microscope, I wanted to understand how reefs interacted with the rest of the earth system on time scales from years to hundreds of thousands of years and beyond! I wanted to learn to read the rock record of how reefs responded to climate and sea level in the past and use that to help understand the future of this ecologically fragile but geologically robust system. I think my Marine Biology advisor was sad to see me switch to what he considered ‘the dark side’, but I’ve never looked back,” Noelle adds with a sly smile, “Especially since that same year the geology department went to Hawaii to study coral reefs and volcanoes!”

After a short stint in the National Park Service teaching visitors how to read the stories written in the igneous geology of Acadia National Park and appreciate the unique adaptations of tide pool creatures, Noelle returned to the University of Miami to pursue a doctorate under Dr. Gregor Eberli. Her research on Glover’s Reef, Belize focuses on understanding what factors influence reef morphology and how the record left by coral reefs can be used to understand past climate and sea level history. Now a certified UM Science Diver, Noelle no longer has to hold her breath to explore the underwater world. After two years of sharing her enthusiasm for marine science and underwater exploration with undergraduate students as the Teaching Assistant for Introduction to Science Diving, Noelle will be sharing her passion for geology with public middle school students in Miami-Dade county this coming school year as a recipient of a National Science Foundation Science Made Sensible Fellowship. “When I was that age, I thought people who liked earth science were nerds, I’m probably not the best person to convince middle school students otherwise, but at least I can show them how much fun we have!”

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