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Student Brittany Huntington is seen here underwater in scuba gear collecting snails for her research last summer in Tanzania What Lies Beneath
Brittany Huntington's future as a marine biologist was set the moment she stumbled upon two octopuses during a fifth-grade field trip to Half Moon Bay.

"Once I realized I could incorporate my interest in biology with my intrigue and passion for the ocean, focusing on marine biology was the obvious next step," says Huntington, who will enter her second semester in the master's biology program this fall.

Her latest oceanic exploration finds her studying sea grass beds in Tomales Bay -- and she has received a prestigious grant to assist her efforts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Huntington a $78,000 Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant. The two-year fellowship will pay for her research supplies, tuition and living expenses.

Huntington is conducting the majority of her research in Tomales Bay along the shore and underwater with the aid of snorkeling and scuba gear. The focus of her research is the increased amount of seaweed in the bay. Huntington is investigating two potential causes: removal of fish or urchins that normally keep the growth of macro algae under control, or sewage and fertilizers that could be feeding plants with an increasing amount of nutrients.

An avid swimmer, scuba diver and photographer, Huntington has studied killer whales in the San Juan Islands, bird behavior on the Galapagos Islands, a coral reef in Nicaragua and biodiversity in Tanzania (shown above).

She is considering researching human impact on the ocean and sustainability of marine resources for her Ph.D.

-- Gary Moskowitz

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