Ms. Melissa Heintz
Academic Department: Biology
Graduation Year: 2011
Cryptocaryon irritans, a small parasitic protozoan that lives part of its life cycle under the scales or in the gill tissues of saltwater fish, can cause the complete destruction of a marine aquarium. Melissa Heintz was interested in breaking the life cycle of C. irritans without chemical treatment that kills all invertebrates pre-sent in the tank. Melissa spent most of her junior year confirming research completed by Lisa Morse: C. irritans will emerge out of its en-cysted stage and enter the free-swimming stage when water from an aquarium holding fish is added to the infected tank, even if no fish are present for the protozoan to infect. Having confirmed this, the question for Melissa became, “What is the substance released from fish that stimulates the protozoan to emerge from its encysted stage?” Melissa collected water from infected aquaria and completed spectrophotometric measurements on the water from infected aquaria to classify the substance. Once identified and purified, the substance has commercial possibilities. Melissa presented her Honors Thesis research in the Spring of 2011.
Research was not the only activity filling Melissa’s college life. The Marine Biology graduate was involved in numerous organizations and had the opportunity to travel to many different places. As senior captain of the Red Flash Women’s Swim Team, she was proud to be a part of the 2010 Northeast Conference Championship team. Her main events were the 100, 200, and 500 yard freestyle. In addition to swimming, she was enrolled in the SFU Honors Program, was President of the Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society, and was the SAAC (Students Athletic Advisory Committee) representative for the swim team.
In an unforgettable experience, Melissa became a certified SCUBA diver and dove in the Galapagos Islands while traveling with the Saint Francis Field Biology class in 2009. She lived on a boat for a week, visited many of the islands, and learned much about the unique flora and fauna on the land and waters of the Galapagos.
Upon graduation from Saint Francis, Melissa plans to continue her studies in graduate school in pursuit of a Masters Degree in Marine Science. She has applied at several schools including Virginia Institute of Marine Science, University of North Carolina Wilmington, College of Charleston, and the University of South Florida. She has particular interest in continuing research on marine parasites.