By Antrelle D. Clark
Hello fellow water lovers, my name is Antrelle D. Clark and I am entering my third year as a PhD student in Marine Biology and Geographic Information Systems Science at Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama). I am interested in studying marine symbiotic relationships using predictions associated with climate change to identify and alter the state of their relationship. As a member of the third cohort for the ASLO LOREX program, I have been granted the opportunity of a lifetime to collaborate with Dror Angel (of the Applied Marine Biology and Ecology Research or AMBER lab) in the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa (Israel) for eight weeks. At the University of Haifa, I will be sampling ctenophores in the Mediterranean Sea and comparing the amoebae found on their comb plates to those I sample in the Gulf of Mexico.
Planning and preparing for my trip to the Middle East was not the easiest task. I had to prepare myself to pack enough to last eight weeks, inform my apartments that I would be absent for two months and go through the steps necessary to ensure my apartment would be secured before departing, send a 25-pound box from Alabama, US to Haifa, Israel, see family and friends, make sure my husky and plants were dropped at their respective caretakers, and mentally prepare myself to sit on multiple sky buses for a lengthy amount of time.
As June 1st got closer and closer, what seemed to be surreal started to feel so real; I kept telling my friends in January that I would be spending eight weeks in Israel starting June 2023, but it did not phase me at all because June felt so far away. However, nerves began to spark when I realized that my road trip home to Texas in May for Mother’s Day was going to be my last for a while.
Of course I was still packing things the morning of and rushing to make my Groome Transportation services appointment in order to get from Auburn to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). I arrived ten minutes before departing and was in such a rush that I didn’t realize that I had left my scuba fins in my friend’s car. Luckily, she saw it in time and delivered my fins right before the bus departed. As the bus arrived at the airport and dropped me off, the nerves began to spark even more but I did my best to remain calm. I checked my luggage, grabbed some food, and waited to board the plane. During my 12-hour trip to Israel, I expected to sleep the majority of the time, but instead I watched five movies, looked out the window, and ate three times.
As I arrived in the Tel Aviv airport in Israel, it felt as if I had went 8 hours into the future because of the time difference. It took a second to wrap my head around the fact that I was now considered an international student. It took an hour to get out of the airport, but when I did step out of the airport, I wanted to turn around and get back on the plane. It was 10:13 am on June 2nd when I realized that it was 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Being born and raised in Texas, I did not think twice about the heat when people warned me that even though the heat may be around the same temperature, it will feel hotter because of how dry it is. Should I have listened to them? YES!!
Arriving at Tel Aviv did not get me to my destination…I still had to travel by bus for an hour to get to Haifa. Confusion, exhaustion, and the tugging of luggage however made the process take over two hours. I finally arrived at the flat that was sublet to me by a student in the Angel lab, unpacked and repacked for my next flight, showered/ate, and went to sleep at 4 pm. I woke up at midnight and got ready to head back to the airport to catch my flight to Palma for the ASLO Summer 2023 Aquatic Sciences Meeting.
On the way to Palma, I had a seven-hour layover in Austria where I grabbed food, walked around their downtown area, and went to their time travel museum to learn about their history. In Palma, I got the opportunity to meet the rest of the current ASLO LOREX cohort and other aquatic scientists and talk about the research I plan to do in Israel. After Palma, I boarded my plane to Barcelona where I spent a day in Park Guell and walked 14 miles in one day to different parts of the city. Once my trip to Barcelona ended, I made my way to Switzerland for an overnight layover and of course…I got chocolate! After a week-long adventure with minimal sleep, I had finally made it back to Haifa and slept for two days (sabbath) before starting my research in a place I would be calling home for the next eight weeks.
Within one week of being out of the US, I have been exposed to a different culture, explored numerous places, made new friends, and learned about similar but in a way yet very different research topics. As my eight weeks start flying by, I plan to grasp what I can about the Israeli culture, appreciate this once in a lifetime opportunity granted by the LOREX program, and advance my dissertation work. To receive updates and learn more about my LOREX journey to the Middle East, follow my science Instagram @a.ntrelle.quaticscientist !