Kulins is making a career out of protecting the environment on Long Island and abroad.
by Michele C. Hollow
While the scenery in New Zealand differs greatly from Long Island, where she grew up and attended Adelphi University, Sara Kulins ’15 is still surrounded by water. She prefers it that way. Her days are now spent researching the effects of climate change on kelp forests at Leigh Marine Laboratory, a satellite campus of The University of Auckland, located on a tiny peninsula.
“Basically, I upgraded to a bigger island by coming to New Zealand,” she said.
In New Zealand, Kulins is studying how kelp react to changes in light and temperature. She expects to become a marine biologist after she finishes her Ph.D. When she is not at the lab, she works at Goat Island Dive, a local dive shop. She just received her rescue diver certification and joined the lab’s touch rugby team.
An avid runner and hiker, Kulins enjoys being outdoors and in an environment where she is constantly learning. In her sophomore year, she worked as the education and outreach coordinator at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island. She learned about the opportunity through Adelphi’s Center for Career Development. “Adelphi is about making good connections,” she said. “I loved being in a role where I could educate and show people, on hikes and with a hands-on approach using a small aquarium touch tank, what creatures live in Long Island Sound.”
In her position at Sunken Meadow, she was able to teach people about the importance of salt marshes. Each step along the way prepared her for her current position at the lab.
“Adelphi provided me with incredible opportunities, which I fully took advantage of,” she said. “The internships, research and field trips were the most valuable to me and led me to where I am now.”
She also credits the career center for her internship at Sweetbriar Nature Center, a private not-for-profit corporation in Smithtown. “It was a positive experience that I got through the [Jaggar] Community Fellows Program, which is through the career services department. I learned so much from everyone there and made professional connections. Each experience and interaction I had over my four years at Adelphi had a part in helping me to find what I’m most passionate about.”
While studying at Adelphi, Kulins received a Horace McDonell Fellowship, which provided her with the opportunity to pursue full-time research for the summer. In this program, she investigated the prevalence and distribution of an invasive species called rizhocephalan parasites, which are barnacles that infect and destroy native mud crabs. This research took place at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.
“Here, I was able to study abroad during my bachelor’s program,” she said. It was in Australia that she learned about the research lab in New Zealand, which is her ideal place.
“The travel bug that I naturally have is combined with my passion for marine science,” she said. In New Zealand she gets healthy doses of both.
“Adelphi is a great place to grow and learn in a positive environment,” she said. “It gave me the opportunity to connect with a vast network of people, even reaching to the other side of the world.”