Brandon Sosa

Hometown: Miami, FL 
College: College of Agriculture
Major: Aquatic Sciences: Freshwater and Marine Biology

Through the Boy Scouts of America, I served many hours at the Fort Lauderdale Wildlife Center which sparked my interest to care for the different species: from raccoons to blue herons to the softshell turtles. Every visit there, even on clean up duty, I enjoyed knowing I was a part of the process that would ensure the health of the animals. Watching the veterinarian help the animals through the rehabilitation process has motivated me to one day be able to work in an animal sanctuary where I could be the one helping animals that are in need, forming bonds with wildlife, and making a difference in their lives. From this experience, I understood that nobody will help these animals except us. By working in the field of veterinary medicine, my main goal is to help the helpless.

As of now, just like almost every college student, I am on the fence about what career I want to end up in. My main decision lays between becoming a marine biologist or an exotic veterinarian. Studying in an exchange program at the University of Queensland with a Gilman scholarship, located in Brisbane, Australia will aid me in my career decision. I chose Australia because of the unique wildlife, vast seas, and magnificent coral reef systems. For a student deciding between wildlife veterinary medicine and marine biology, Australia possesses the best of both worlds to come to a decision. Australia has strong resources for both my career aspirations. I chose to study for one full semester of 16-weeks because it works with my academic schedule. Being there for any time less than a semester would not be enough time to gain quality experiences through my volunteering, research plans, or my course load while at the University of Queensland. This study abroad experience is the next step on my path to protecting and aiding the majestic animals that roam our earth.

For the past year, I have been participating in research at Purdue, which includes working as a volunteer in Dr. Goforth’s freshwater ecology research lab. I process river and catfish stomach samples to interpret the effects of invasive species found in the San Juan river.

Though I learned much through this opportunity, I do not wish to limit myself to strictly freshwater systems, rather I wish to dive into marine research. An area within marine systems that I wish to pursue research in is the coral bleaching phenomena. Projections estimate that 90-percent of the world’s coral will be dead by 2050. My ideal research would be focused on keeping zooxanthellae, temperature-sensitive algae, productive in their symbiotic relationship with corals. By studying in Australia, I will be able to engage in exciting saltwater systems research.

On the other side of my career aspirations, I was able to work full time at a small animal hospital in Miami, Florida, where I call home. I was able to gain tremendous knowledge and experience in the field of vet medicine, however, I was only working with small animals such as dogs and cats. To be a competitive applicant when applying for vet school, one must have a diversified collection of experiences working with all different categories of animals. Through this program, I will go to a country that is booming with a wide scale of diverse animals.

As a freshman, I always viewed studying abroad as a luxury for students who have money.  Now, with the Gilman scholarship studying abroad is possible. My plan is to excel in my courses, observe and learn about the diverse wildlife, and work at least 10 hours a week of in the coral reef research at the University of Queensland. Having funding from this scholarship will aid me to focus on my coursework, research, and volunteer while in Australia rather than worrying about my finances. Pursuing these opportunities is the next step towards deciding between directly aiding the health of animals through veterinary medicine or researching to sustain the ocean that many species depend on to survive.

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