FAU Broward Campuses - Student Spotlight

Hayley Knapp

Saturday, Jul 01, 2023
Hayley Knapp

Master in Biological Sciences | Class of 2024

Hayley Knapp has loved dolphins for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Kansas, she didn’t really have many encounters with ocean marine life. Yet, she was captivated by everything under the sea. And it’s a passion that would follow her throughout her life, slowly coming to fruition and ultimately culminating her research project through Florida Atlantic University’s College of Science.

"I remember how unique it was for me to have a passion for dolphins since Kansas is nowhere near marine life," Hayley said.

Hayley has embraced volunteering jobs with many different organizations in the wildlife sector, including the Kansas City Zoo where she grew fond of penguins. "I used to clean the penguin enclosure at the Kansas Zoo and I loved working with them, they’re gentle and playful creatures," she said.

She attended William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri for her undergraduate degree, where she received a swimming scholarship and Journey grant. Hayley was able to land herself an internship at The Wild Dolphin Project, a non-profit scientific research organization dedicated to studying and documenting a specific pod of free-roaming Atlantic spotted dolphins.

Hayley migrated to the Florida coastline to join Florida Atlantic University’s College of Science for her graduate program. And what a first year it has been! Hayley was one of FAU’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) winners. The 3MT® competition is for FAU graduate students from all colleges and departments to cultivate the ability to explain their research, including both breadth and significance, in a language appropriate to an audience containing both specialists and non-specialists in three minutes or less.

Her research project, "From Poop to Parent: Examining Paternity in Dynamic Atlantic Spotted Dolphin Populations in the Bahamas" is focused on testing DNA from dolphin fecal matter to find the father of the dolphins that migrated from Little Bahamas Bank to Big Bahamas Bank in 2013. The main subject of this research is the calves that were born after 2013.

As of now, Hayley has not been able to go out in the field to retrieve the samples herself, but she hopes that she’ll be able to participate hands-on soon. She plans to conclude her research next spring. And while she doesn’t have any big plans for what’s next, one thing is for sure, working with the Wild Dolphin Project will certainly be one of them.