Monday, December 13, 2010

Spring break project: Giant tube worms

riftia1Allison Drake (2)Giant tube worms live in the darkness of the deep sea, next to hydrothermal vents. They grow up to 8 feet long and, at their tips, have red plumes rimmed with blood vessels. They resemble a cross between a tentacle and a tube of lipstick.
     These weird invertebrates are called riftia. WSU Online student Allison Drake studied them this past spring during an internship at the Smithsonian National Museum of National History, which offers several spring break programs.
     “I told myself I needed to step out of the bounds of my day-to-day life and explore the world,” she said. Drake picked the Hunting Sea Monsters program, and gathered information for the Encyclopedia of Life website. More...      The best part of the weeklong program was seeing “the underbelly” of the Smithsonian. Drake attended lectures, watched the creation of exhibits and talked with staff at the Washington, D.C., museum. “I was privileged to meet one of the few starfish experts in the world,” she said.
     Drake’s university studies reflect her eclectic interests. She’s majoring in humanities, with a triple emphasis in art, music, and anthropology, plus she’s minoring in sociology and earned a professional writing certificate.
     “I've been fascinated with people and how they interact as long as I can remember,” she said. “I also love to write and express myself in creative ways, which is where the art, music, and professional writing come into play.”
     Drake chose WSU Online because of its long history of success, “really welcoming atmosphere,” and convenience.
     “I love WSU Online because it fits into my life,” she said. “I can schedule my day as I see fit, instead of sitting in a lecture hall, waiting for other people and listening to questions that don’t pertain to me.”
     Drake may not sit in a classroom, but she still feels connected.
     “I have had more contact and feedback from my professors through online courses than through face-to-face classes,” she said. “And my advisors have been very active and invested in what I'm doing.”
     Drake lives in Vancouver, Washington, and works part time for a nonprofit agency. She has a 3.73 GPA and after graduating in May plans to earn a master’s in social work. That decision was inspired by the protests and rallies she witnessed during her internship.
     “Seeing so many people in one place so passionate about life was inspiring,” she said. “It’s important not to just talk about the issues facing the world, but to do something about them.”

Story by Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education
Riftia photo courtesy of Vicki Ferrini, Marvin Lilley

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