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Oysters are the world for Rhode Island graduate student [Old Town Laurel]

Laurel native Rebecca Stevick on a 2016 training dive in Bonaire, an island in the Caribbean.
Laurel native Rebecca Stevick on a 2016 training dive in Bonaire, an island in the Caribbean. (Courtesy photo)

It is cliche to declare that the world is Rebecca Stevick's oyster. It is true, however, that oysters are her world. Her professional world, at least.

Stevick is an Old Town native and graduate student at the University of Rhode Island whose research focuses on oysters and the environmental conditions that help them thrive. She was awarded a grant in April from the Nature Conservancy and the Coastal Institute to study the impact of bacteria on oysters in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay.

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The goal is help determine how bacteria – or microbial, in more scientific terms – conditions in the water effect the health of oysters, which help clean water, prevent erosion and support other species.

"We spend plenty of money [on oyster restoration] and have no return on that because many of the projects fail and we don't know why," Stevick said.

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Stevick's path to academic achievement began in Laurel. She is the fourth of six children of long-time Old Town residents Dick and Doris Stevick. She attended St. Mary of the Mills School and Seton Keough High School in Baltimore before gaining an undergraduate degree in bioengineering from the University of Maryland in 2015.

She wanted to pursue graduate work but didn't want to spend years of her life in an indoor lab, so she entered the biological oceanography program at the University of Rhode Island. Now Stevick spends plenty of time on a boat in the Narragansett Bay or on cruises and dives to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

"One of the things I enjoy about grad school," she said, "is that there are way too many things going on."

Like any doctoral candidate, Stevick laughs when asked when she expects to finish her degree (no later than May 2020). She enjoys the little beach town where she lives now and devotes free time to kayaking or swimming, but loves returning to Laurel several times each year.

Stevick is careful not to let her research on oysters consume her. She said she works hard to ensure that, upon graduation, she can adapt to changing research priorities and funding environments if necessary.

"You really have to make sure your research is applicable and helpful and relevant to people," she said.

This weekend will feature a lovely evening of music at Laurel Presbyterian Church, 7610 Old Sandy Spring Road. The U.S. Navy Brass Band Quartet will perform there on Saturday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. The concert is free and open to all. Questions may be directed to the church office at 301-776-6665.

It's time to lace up your running shoes and get ready to hit the streets for Laurel Community Day on Saturday, May 20. The day begins at 8 a.m. at McCullough Field, at Montgomery and Eighth streets, with a 5k run and one-mile walk to benefit both Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services and First Generation College Bound. Registration is $35 and can be completed online at register.chronotrack.com/r/26089.

Many of you are familiar with the work of LARS, which provides services and support to struggling families in our community. First Generation College Bound is another great Laurel-based group that helps low- and moderate-income students in Prince George's County successfully graduate high school and access college.

After the run, Laurel High School will host its Community Day celebration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its campus at 8000 Cherry Lane, where festivities will include food trucks, a car show and a moon bounce.

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