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Blog Post: Deep Sea Coral, Phytoplankton, and the Changing Ocean

Lindsay Rodgers, using cryogenic distillation to remove water molecules from carbon dioxide in a vacuum line at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. PC: Carina Fish
Lindsay Rodgers, using cryogenic distillation to remove water molecules from carbon dioxide in a vacuum line at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. PC: Carina Fish

By Lindsay Rogers

Lindsay Rodgers is a 2019 Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates student in the Hill Ocean Climate Lab at UC Davis-Bodega Marine Laboratory. She is a microbiology major at Santa Rosa Junior College, and is planning to transfer next year in order to pursue environmental microbiology for broader impact applications.

Over the past nine weeks, I have had the opportunity to dive into the world of paleoceanography, specifically to learn how deep sea corals are able to provide a record of the ocean climate that they grew in. Similar to tree rings, deep sea coral skeleton grow annual rings, each of which is composed of the nutrient material it absorbed during that year of its life. In order to obtain this ocean climate information, the coral skeleton nodes are carefully peeled apart, layer by layer. The peels are then analyzed for elemental content, including radiocarbon, which is a radioactive isotope that was present in higher amounts during the 1950s and 60s, following nuclear bomb testing. Tracing radiocarbon content in a coral’s peels allow the specimen to be placed on a chronological timeline, and thus provide ocean climate information about the derived timeline that it lived. For my independent project, I am using carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures to compare deep sea coral polyp tissue, and the outermost (youngest) nodal peel with its food source, plankton, to see how these ratios are translated within a deep sea coral’s anatomy, as well as how they are affected between trophic levels. ​

Lindsay Rogers and Carina Fish. PC: Gabriel Ng
Lindsay Rogers and Carina Fish. PC: Gabriel Ng

My mentor, PhD candidate Carina Fish, encouraged me to take advantage of the various learning opportunities available at the UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Lab (including attending weekly seminars from scientists all over the world and informal lunches with lecture guests) and initiated connections with researchers in other labs so that I could learn new techniques and explore other branches of marine science. She made my experience here positively packed with learning, both intellectual and practical. Overall, I feel extremely honored to have been a part of the BML this summer, because among the wonderful and ambitious scientists, staff, and students, lives a community that feeds on curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving. Working in this collaborative environment made me certain that I want to continue pursuing research and involvement in the scientific community.

Lindsay Rodgers, placing graphitized coral samples into a mass spectrometer at the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry in Livermore, CA. PC: Carina Fish
Lindsay Rodgers, placing graphitized coral samples into a mass spectrometer at the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry in Livermore, CA. PC: Carina Fish

 

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The Importance of Natural History and Experimental Design: a Summer in Tomales Bay

Daniel Lopez and Ben Rubinoff. PC: Gabriel Ng
Daniel Lopez and Ben Rubinoff. PC: Gabriel Ng

By Daniel Lopez

Daniel Lopez is a fourth year Santa Rosa Junior College student applying for transfer this Fall. He worked with Ben Rubinoff in the Grosholz Lab.

From visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, to going out to the coast as a kid, I have always had an interest in marine biology. There is so much that isn’t known about the ocean, and up until this point, I had never really gotten an in depth experience on how research is performed in this field. Due to my interests and desire for more experience, I saw this internship through the Santa Rosa Junior College and  I immediately gravitated toward it. I wanted to get a better understanding of what it would be like working in research, especially in the field.

I worked with Ben on research investigating how abiotic and biotic factors affect fouling community composition across an estuarine gradient. In assisting Ben with this experiment, I learned just how important it is to study and understand these communities. Some fouling species  live on eelgrass blades, which can then weigh the plant down and restrict access to sunlight. This could be detrimental to the whole ecosystem!

I helped to build the cages for the experiment and set them up in three locations in Tomales Bay. For the next several weeks we maintained the cages and conducted eelgrass surveys along each site to monitor eelgrass health and to see what kind of fouling species there might be at each site. Working with Ben has helped me to get a feel for what it is like doing field work. I learned just how many factors you have to take into account when conducting an experiment and also the preparations needed before starting it. For example, you need to make sure you have the right permits, know the tidal schedule, know what the site looks like, and make sure you have all the necessary equipment.  I also learned about how to bridge the gap between data collected in the field, what it represents, and how to interpret it. This involved learning how to efficiently organize raw data so that it can be easily interpreted by others. Overall I am thankful to have had this opportunity and to be a part of this program. The experience and skills that I gained this summer will prepare me for future research opportunities and a career in marine science. 

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