Two weeks before a planned hip replacement during her junior year of high school, incoming freshman Jetty Porter journeyed to the Virgin Islands to conduct coral disease surveys. Porter, who is from Hollywood, Florida, embarked on the two-week research project to collect coral data for the College of Charleston, an experience Porter said sparked her interest in marine science.
“There’s a part of me that loves just getting to be out there in the field and interacting with animals one-on-one and really being able to connect with what I’m studying on a personal level,” she said.
At age eight, Porter was diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia, a condition stemming from a malformation of the hip socket that can impede movement and cause serious pain if left untreated. So far, she has undergone eight major surgeries.
“My whole educational experience has been balancing a medical struggle with learning,” Porter said.
“I would have a new cast almost every six months, but I’ve always tried to do what I love to do, even if it hurt or was a struggle,” she continued.
Porter’s condition hasn’t stopped the South Broward Marine Science Magnet Program student from commuting to the Florida Keys two hours per week to conduct field research on Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, a bacterial pathogen affecting more than 30 species of corals that spreads through water and leads to high coral mortality.
Porter said she is eager to start attending classes at the University of Miami, where she plans to declare majors in marine biology and ecology.
“I really just love everything about marine science, and I’m really excited just to have a big pool of opportunities just to get involved with at UM,” she said.
Porter said she chose to enroll at UM for its Shark Tagging Program. In high school, she accompanied UM students as a part of the Shark Research and Conservation university team on several trips to areas including the Florida Keys. Their job is to place body tags on sharks to record data about their body temperature, energy levels and locations. Porter said after working with the group for several years in high school, she hopes to continue her passion for the program at UM.
“At the college level I really want to lead some of the expeditions and take a more hands-on role with collecting and sorting through the data,” she said.
Back at her Hollywood home, Porter has been collecting tilapia and koi fish for her high school research lab. In her free time, Porter said she loves to scuba dive. She recently received a grant to support her research work with the UM Shark Tagging Program from the Women Divers Hall of Fame, an organization that provides a platform for female exploratory divers to share their scientific research and insights with the public. The soon-to-be freshman is also currently pursuing her rescue diving certification.
Porter added that while demanding, marine science research does have its benefits.
“Sometimes we would go out really early in the mornings to study aquatic life, and after the trip we would head to the lab to analyze the data and only be done at sundown,” she said.
“There’s something about being in the ocean before sunrise and really just immersing yourself in a field that could have deep impacts like marine science,” she continued, “It’s a lot of fun.”
The University of Miami Shark Research and Conservation Program offers a variety of undergraduate internships in addition to expeditions open to the general public. Visit the website here for more information.