Ivy Burns ’16

Ivy Burns never imagined that she could become excited about seaweed, but after spending the last eight months studying the marine algae, she can’t get enough of it. “I loved learning about the complex ecology of this thing that you would normally just walk right over,” she said. “It opened my eyes to this whole other facet of the world that most people ignore.”

Working with Professor Carol Thornber, she examined algae blooms in Narragansett Bay by focusing on the two most prolific bloom-forming species, which grow in thin green sheets and reproduce by tearing bits off their blades.

“They’re very good at what they do,” said Burns, who was featured in a URI television advertisement last fall. “They’re very thin and grow really fast, and they absorb a lot of nutrients. They form mats of seaweed that block the sunlight from other algae on the bottom, and when the seaweed dies it releases chemicals that are bad for the environment and bad for the fish.”

As if her coursework and research weren’t enough to keep her busy, Burns is also the president of two student groups: Secular URI, a discussion group she founded for non-religious students, and URI Students for the Advancement of Gender Equity, which provides a safe place for students to talk about gender-related issues.

“I’m a plant person, I love ecology, and I like bugs and fungus,” she said. “I’m looking for a career somewhere that I can research plants or fungus or bugs or a cross-section of those things. I can’t wait to get started.”