Education

Demystifying Undergraduate Research Experiences

Priya Shukla and a classmate working on a research project

by MCS Lead Mentor Priya Shukla

For many undergraduate students interested in pursuing marine science as a career, getting research experience (even if its research units required for your degree) is a necessary, and sometimes intimidating, process. 

Below, CMSI Lead Mentor Priya Shukla shares some of her thoughts on finding and learning from her undergraduate research experiences.

How did you get into doing research?

After years of learning about scientific discoveries in grade school, I was craving my own ah-hah! Moment. Like many of you, I did my undergraduate degree (in Environmental Science & Management) at UC Davis, and there was a high volume of research happening on campus. So, opportunities abounded for me to get some experience - I just needed to know where to dig in. Because I wanted to earn some extra income*, I prioritized paid research assistant positions over volunteer work and unpaid internships. I went onto have several positions that taught me what I didn’t want to do, before I realized what sort of work not only helped me pay the bills, but piqued my curiosity even while doing the most mundane tasks. 

Priya ShuklaMy first job on campus involved doing air quality research. I then worked at greenhouses located in west campus and an agricultural pest lab in the basement of Briggs Hall. In my last two years of undergrad, I worked in a fish conservation and at a paleoceanography lab (Tessa Hill’s lab) out at the Bodega Marine Lab.

Each of these jobs taught me what sort of tasks I did and didn’t enjoy doing, but it was through the later two jobs that I learned how much I loved doing work on, in, near, about water and climate change -- specifically the ocean!

* I mentioned that I only accepted positions that would pay me, but there are several different ways to do research: you can get paid like I did, get compensated in the form of research units (many science majors at UC Davis require research credits to graduate), or you can volunteer your free time. If you’re interested in a research position that doesn’t necessarily come with a salary or stipend, you should talk with your research mentor about ways to apply for funding (e.g., work-study).

What is your favorite thing about doing research?

Like many people, I love that doing research - especially fieldwork - means I get to work in some breathtaking places! But, my favorite thing about doing research is the part that many people dread - writing it all up! There is so much that goes into a given project - brainstorming, finding funding, setting up an experiment, watching it fail and re-doing the work, interpreting unexpected results, and then passing it along to fellow scientists for their perspective on your work (peer review) before you share it with your colleagues. 

Don’t get me wrong - putting all of these pieces together is really challenging and fun! But, writing publications (along with presenting at conferences) is also the part of the process that helps science get out of the lab and into the world. Getting your work peer-reviewed and published is a lengthy process, but it also is what allows “sound science” to be used to make decisions. And, there’s something thrilling about seeing your name as an author!

Is there anything about doing research that you don’t like?

My least favorite thing about doing research is also one of the things that makes it really fun - early morning low tides. Low tides are beautiful and epic opportunities to see the diversity of life and interesting ecological interactions that occur in the zone where the water rises and falls every day. These low tides start at convenient times at the beginning of summer, but get progressively earlier as summer edges into fall. This means getting up at 4:00am (which is hard, but not the part I don’t like) and having to be extremely careful so that I don’t make silly mistakes in my sleep-deprived state and up feeling scornful towards my past self. Priya Shukla

For example, one of my field sites has much softer mud than the other, so I can wear some standard rainy day galoshes at one, while the other requires full on wader so that I can maneuver around in the mud. During one of my first excursions, when I was still getting comfortable at the mushier site, I forgot to put on my waders. I tromped out to my experimental baskets - or at least I tried to - in the rainboots. I had maybe taken 10 steps before my left foot sank into the mud up to the middle of my calf. I went to take another step, and my foot slipped out and I managed to catch myself before my socked foot hit the mud. I ground down with my right foot to maintain my balance and then hoved my left foot back into its boot. To make my way out of the situation, I had to pull on the lip of both boots as I took each step to prevent that from happening again. I managed to make it back to my car and change into my waders … but then managed to make the same mistake at least once more before I fully learned my lesson!

What surprised you about doing research?

I had romanticized the ah-hah! moment I was seeking! There is so much failure before you get to that point. That sometimes means you end up literally shedding blood (because you banged your knuckles against the water table), sweat (because lifting multiple buckets of water is exhausting), and tears (because sometimes no matter how much you try to get things right, nature is complicated and the species you’re working with don’t cooperate). You are asking questions and doing work that no one else has - so of course you’re going to make mistakes! 

Priya ShuklaOver time, I’ve gotten better at accepting failure, but it still bums me out when things don’t work. But, because I’m the kind of person who loves planning, I build failure into my plans. That way, when things don’t work out, I can pretend it was part of the plan all along (because it was!). Also, because there is so much failure between conceiving an idea and writing it up (because something breaks, your data don’t tell a clear story, your code won’t run, your figures don’t make sense), it is really satisfying when things begin to fall into place, and it becomes clear what your data are telling you; that ah-hah! moment is truly rewarding!

Is getting research experience worth it if you don’t want to do it for a living?

Absolutely - because it is an invaluable opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone while learning new skills. Yes, you might learn niche skills like counting otolith rings or measuring seawater carbonate chemistry, but you’ll also learn time management and organization skills, what working collaboratively looks like, and gain more abstract qualities like patience and perseverance -- all of which have application beyond marine science research.

How can you find research experiences?

Through the job application system (currently Handshake) and departmental emails, I found and heard about several research opportunities to work directly with graduate students, post-docs and professors. I applied to dozens of these and would hear back from ~ 20% of the people I reached out to and positions I applied for. For opportunities associated with UC Davis, you can also check out this Research Opportunities Database.

Also, if you are concerned that you won’t be competitive because you don’t have any prior research experience - you should recognize skills you’ve gained in other positions you’ve held! For example, working at a restaurant, you have to be adaptive and juggle multiple tasks at once on a strict schedule. Babysitting requires you to be extremely responsible and careful. Being an athlete means that you have grit and know how to strategize, follow complex plans, and achieve goals.

Bear in mind that you likely won’t be starting out planning your own experiments. You’ll probably be working with someone who needs help setting up and carrying out an experiment or has completed one and is inundated with samples to process. Learning these different components makes the whole process more accessible.   

If you have any questions about research that were not answered here, consider submitting them to the new Ask A Grad Student Blog!

 

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Santa Rosa Junior College and Bodega Marine Laboratory Offer Innovative Internship Opportunities

Bodega Marine Laboratory
Bodega Marine Laboratory - Photo by Fred Greaves

This partnership between the Santa Rosa Junior College and the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory brings research projects to life and illuminates a path from junior college to university. 

About the internship program

For the past five years, this graduate student-directed program has been a bridge between Santa Rosa Junior College students with an interest in the marine sciences and the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and Bodega Marine Reserve. As interns, the Junior College students are paired with mentors and given access to the tools, training, and time in the lab needed to design and conduct their own research projects.

This internship program relies on a combination of resources to operate, but one of the biggest funding sources is donations from the public, especially residents of Sonoma County and alumni from SRJC and UC Davis. The program strives to pay interns for their time, and the generosity of donors helps to make it possible for the majority of interns to be in paid positions and supports the program’s intent to offer access to underserved communities in the marine sciences and provide an equitable space for the development of emerging scientists.

For those interested in making a gift to this program, please visit the UC Davis Giving Site or the SRJC Foundation Site and know that any donation, of any size, makes a difference.

Word Cloud
A word cloud of the interns responses to the question "What are you hoping to get out of the internship program?"

How does a marine science internship continue without the ocean?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the internship program was faced with some difficult decisions. The program directors convened and agreed that being able to provide high-quality research experiences, which are so integral to the retention and success of students in STEM programs, was of the utmost importance, and worth taking on the difficulties of transitioning to virtual programming for 2020.

Their first task was to tackle the most obvious challenges: how could students still get access to hands-on research opportunities and how would they develop a sense of community within their cohort if the program went virtual? Program directors Hannah Palmer and Ashley Smart, both Graduate Students at UC Davis banded together to develop virtual programming that offered shared training and mentoring opportunities for students who were utilizing similar tools, workshops that emphasized professional development and communications, making the transition to a 4-year university, and careers in marine science.

Standout results in a summer of virtual programming

In spite of the unique challenges of this year’s internship, the program has already seen positive outcomes. Although the formal results of the intern’s research projects won’t be presented until mid-August, the team has noted that this cohort has built a strong sense of community even at a distance, with weekly meetings and workshops, grad students co-mentoring groups of interns, and even a mini cohort-within-a-cohort forming around the topic of Ocean Acidification. Hannah, Ashley, and Shawn Brumbaugh from the Junior College have even teamed up to create an abstract of their experiences in transitioning the program to a virtual setting, which will be presented virtually in December to the AGU (American Geophysical Union).

How can SRJC students who are interested in the program apply?

This internship typically begins accepting internships in March, with applications due in late April, and places a lot of emphasis on bringing intentionality to the selection process. Rather than basing decisions on GPA or what year of schooling a student is in, the program directors actively seek out students who demonstrate enthusiasm and willingness to take part in the research process, and including feedback from one of their professors at the Junior College as part of the selection process. Applicants interested in the 2021 internships can find out more details about the application process on the program’s website.

How to find out more:

For information about the Internship Program, please contact Hannah Palmer or Ashley Smart from UC Davis or Shawn Brumbaugh from SRJC.

For general requests for information about the UC Davis Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute and the Bodega Marine Laboratory, please contact us here.

 

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Meet the 2020 SRJC-BML Interns

Bodega Marine Laboratory
Bodega Marine Laboratory

Intern-mentor pairings between Santa Rosa Junior College students and UC Davis graduate students at the Bodega Marine Lab offered a virtual twist on this normally hands-on summer experience.

For the past five years, Santa Rosa Junior College and Bodega Marine Laboratory have been partnering to support a graduate student-led internship program that gives junior college students access to grad student mentors and hands-on research experiences in the lab. This year, the program successfully tested its agility in the transition to a virtual format. Although a different experience than in previous years, the 2020 interns and mentors have built a strong, communicative cohort, and successfully developed and completed their research projects.

Read more about some of the intern’s experiences in their own words:

Sonali Langlois

I am a community college student who loves dancing, food, and science. I was drawn to this internship program because I went to visit and tour the Bodega Marine lab as part of a field trip and everyone working there seemed so passionate and involved in their research. I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of that community!

Photo of research project
Photo by Sonali Langlois
Sonali’s Research Project:

My project measures the size of microfossils called foraminifera going back five thousand years. These little protists are able to record their habitats by shaping their shells based on things like oxygen availability, water temperature, and pH. This lets us learn about past changes in the ocean and helps understand how the ocean is impacted today due to climate change. Doing this project opened my eyes to a whole new realm of science that I could never see myself working in before. Now I look forward to studying and researching marine ecosystems in my future education. 

Advice for Future Applicants:

If you get accepted, take advantage of any opportunities your mentor suggests to you even if they seem intimidating or out of your comfort zone.  You never know what doors they might open or what new skills you might learn.


Inder B.

I am a recent SRJC graduate who will be transferring to UC Davis. I am working towards my biology degree and I plan on applying and attending med school in the future. 

Inder’s Research Project:

I decided to apply for this internship because I was genuinely interested in the effect of climate change on ocean life. Admittedly, I knew very little about this field coming in, but I have learned so much more than I thought I would. I was introduced to a new, remote way of research that proved to be effective. We studied the effect of ocean acidification on the calcification of shells for many different marine animals. I found it very interesting how some animals proved to respond differently to the treatment conditions, and the vast amount of information we could extract from this. Most of the research focused on acidification conditions that are very likely to occur due to climate change in the near future. Therefore, the work that is being done at the Bodega Marine lab is very important, as it will help us understand and prepare for the upcoming future.

Advice for Future Applicants:

My advice would be to actually take an interest in the work. Doing so will allow you to be more efficient and have a greater impact on the team and the project. 


Hannah Sullivan

I am currently a student at Santa Rosa Junior College studying biology. I am interested in marine biology specifically because I aspire to be an aquatic veterinarian. I have always had a love for animals and spend my free time volunteering at animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centers as well as working at a veterinary clinic! This internship was a great opportunity for me because I was able to gain a stronger background in the marine science part of aquatic medicine.

Hannah’s Research Project:

This summer I feel grateful for all of the experiences and skills my mentor Ashley Smart and the SRJC-Bodega Marine Lab Internship Program have given me. I enjoyed getting to be a part of Ashley's project, where she is researching how stressors such as ocean acidification can affect animal behavior. She used the sea slug species known as Aplysia to run her experiments. I also value the professional skills the program taught me such as networking, resume writing, and communication. I know I will be able to take all of these learned skills into my future endeavors, and I feel inspired to continue my exploration of marine science and marine animals!

Advice for Future Applicants:

Don't be afraid to ask questions! You can learn so much from your mentor and the other people you will meet. It is valuable to talk to others who have gone through pathways that you may be considering. This internship is a great way to explore career options in science and see what is interesting to you while building connections in those fields.


Pemba Sherpa 

I recently graduated from SRJC and will be attending UC Davis in fall 2020. I am currently following a pre-health track and will be majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. However, I am trying to explore different fields and expose myself to research experiences.

Pemba’s Research Project:

In the eight weeks of internship, we focused on California mussels, and how their shell width has been decreasing over time. We focused on data collected from Bodega Bay from the last decade. Throughout the internship, I learned a lot of skills such as using ImageJ to calibrate images to measure the growth bands of mussels. I also learned how to use Rstudio to graph plots, datasheet management skills, and analyze graphs. 


More to Explore:

Find out more about the Internship Program
Read more about previous years' internships here
Make a gift to the SRJC-BML Internship Program

 

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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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A Summer by the Bay

Analyzing glass slides with limpet secretions for my research project. PC: Alisha Saley
Analyzing glass slides with limpet secretions for my research project. PC: Alisha Saley

By Lena Ballard

Lena Ballard was an intern in the 2019 SRJC-BML Summer Internship Program. She worked with Alisha Saley. Lena has now transferred to Dominican University of California.

My summer project consisted of semi-independent research work observing and documenting various anti-predator responses of prey species Lottia pelta, the shield limpet, to the dominant predatory ochre sea star, Pisaster ochraceus. Changes resulting from to OA, a chemical perturbation due to increased anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere, have the ability to alter predator-prey dynamics, such that the checks and balances within the intertidal ecosystem disrupt the overall community. Thus, I asked how select documented anti-predator responses may fair under future ocean conditions and whether or not ocean acidification (OA) disrupts this specific predator-prey interaction, potentially increasing predation risk to a crucial intertidal grazer (limpet).

Lena presenting her research at the End of the Summer Banquet. PC: Gabriel Ng
Lena presenting her research at the End of the Summer Banquet. PC: Gabriel Ng

Q: What have been some of the highlights and biggest learning experiences from your summer at BML?

Out of all of the priceless memories and lessons learned from my time at the lab, my favorites were with my mentor, Alisha. Yes, we always found highlights while spending peaceful mornings submerged shin-deep in tide pools observing, identifying and collecting my study species, Lottia pelta (the shield limpet). Even the common rogue wave splashing in and down our ripped boots and soaked tennis shoes didn’t dampen the excitement of exploring a new semi-submerged world. Although these “sunny” memories taught me a lot about the rocky intertidal ecosystem, the most impactful experience occurred on a much “foggier” occasion.   

It was the middle of the summer, about 3 weeks into my 10 week internship at the lab. Thus far, I had tried multiple pilot projects aimed at documenting the diverse anti-predator responses of L. pelta to chemical cue from Pisaster ochraceus, the ochre sea star, and found weak hints of similarities among individuals. Then one day I observed that when exposed to sea star cue in groups, individuals tend to aggregate together in colonies. It was my first true ah ha moment that I felt warranted further exploration; “I can’t wait to share my findings with Alisha”, I thought. After constructing an experiment I began running trials to test my hypothesis  and was very hopeful. However, by the end of the first day of trials it was unclear whether or not the aggregation response I had once confidently observed was just a coincidence in their movement behavior. I was devastated; had I just failed? Therefore, I immediately went through my methods, observations, and literature searching for where I had gone astray. I knew there must have been somewhere I made a mistake and I just couldn’t figure out where. I felt like a failure. 

Lena and her mentor, Alisha Saley. PC: Gabriel Ng
Lena and her mentor, Alisha Saley. PC: Gabriel Ng

This low point took a turn when I expressed my disappointment to my mentor and she reassured me that I had done nothing wrong- sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we expected and it doesn’t have anything to do with us; it is just scientific process and that is why we replicate our observations--to increase confidence in whatever we observe over multiple trials. It turns out that it shouldn’t be considered failure when we observe trends that don’t support our hypothesis because the knowledge and experience gained are still valuable and worthwhile.  Developing my observational abilities, being able to formulate a hypothesis, constructing an experiment, efficiently conducting literature searches- all of these skills, whether or not I was able to “fail to reject my null hypothesis”, will continue to aid in what comes next.

So instead of continuing to scrutinize myself, I got back to work. I was encouraged to sit back and think about the pilot for a few days. Had the limpets done something else when touched with a sea star tube foot? How could these responses be ecologically relevant for their survival in the intertidal? It wasn’t long after I had a new pilot. Akin to exploring in the intertidal, just because an unexpected wave soaks you from head to toe doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You just have to be patient for the wave to subside, look around to find a new path, and remember what has happened to be prepared for the next one.

In summary, this experience taught me something that I will hold onto for a lifetime. You aren’t defined by “failure”- what defines you is how you deal with it.  With any obstacle you must embrace the lesson learned and possess unwavering tenacity

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An Adventurous, Eye-Opening Summer Internship at UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab

Nayeli Echeverria Collecting sea grass samples. PC: Isabelle Neylan
Nayeli Echeverria Collecting sea grass samples. PC: Isabelle Neylan

By Nayeli Echeverria

Nayeli Echeverria is going into her third year at Santa Rosa Junior College and will be transferring to UC Davis in the near future. This summer, she worked with a mentor, Isabelle Neylan, in the Stachowicz Lab at UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab.

The purpose of Isabelle Neylan’s study was to observe behavioral and morphological changes in Nucella lamellosa snails in response to the threat of predation. We measured six shell morphology traits of each individual snail before and after the exposure and conducted behavioral assays weekly throughout the exposure period. This study helps understand how prey organisms may prioritize slower physical versus faster behavioral responses when protecting themselves against predators.

Overall, I enjoyed every minute I spent at BML because everything was an adventure. I think one of the most exciting things I learned while working with Isabelle was when the data suggested that the snails exposed to no predators and no food also thicken their shells through a cheaper material. I found this to be surprising because it is amazing what animals are able to do when protecting themselves even in scarcity of food, I would have predicted otherwise. Another highlight of mine was when Isabelle went out of her way to set up a fieldwork day with two other Stachowicz lab members Katie Dubois and Collin Gross. This gave me the opportunity to see a different side of research. I was taught to use a transect, which I found out is a primary, valuable task in marine research. We went to Tomales Bay and collected samples of seagrass. Collin then allowed me to assist him in his fieldwork, where we seined and measured the sizes of the different fish as he recorded the data. It was so awesome to be in the water and get some hands-on fieldwork! First time I ever saw a sea grape! Isabelle Neylan has been an astonishing mentor to me and never failed to continue to support and excite me during my time at BML. She even assisted me in writing an abstract of my own so that I could be able to attend a STEM conference in Hawaii and present the research I assisted her with this summer. One of my biggest highlights was receiving a great mentor because who you work with matters, and I believe my mentor is one of the best!

I am more than grateful to have received this opportunity. I was able to measure 428 snail shells using calipers, assist in collecting data on snail behaviors, and input data into excel. Not only that, but Isabelle explained what the data collected suggested, which helped me understand the purpose of the study and how the work we put in comes together. I was also able to work with teams, both in the lab and out in the field. I know the new skills I have obtained will make me a valuable, experienced candidate for future research opportunities, all thanks to BML and the fantastic, supportive mentors.​​

Nayeli Echeverria assisting Graduate Student Isabelle Neylan count the baby snail eggs. PC: Isabelle Neylan
Nayeli Echeverria assisting Graduate Student Isabelle Neylan count the baby snail eggs. PC: Isabelle Neylan
Nayeli Echeverria using a transect. PC: Isabelle Neylan
Nayeli Echeverria using a transect. PC: Isabelle Neylan
Isabelle Neylan and Nayeli Echeverria. PC: Gabriel Ng
Isabelle Neylan and Nayeli Echeverria. PC: Gabriel Ng

 

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Hold On, We're Going Fishing

E. Hernandez

By Eduardo Hernandez 

Eduardo will be transferring to San Francisco State University for Fall 2019 to pursue a Bachelors of Science degree in Microbiology. This summer, he spent his internship working in the Morgan Lab with Helen Killeen and Sadie Small.    

As an undergraduate student, I came to the Bodega Marine Laboratory eager to learn and contribute to any project. When I got the notification that I would have the opportunity to be an intern for the summer at BML, I was extremely excited. As I learned about animals and marine biology in my community college, I wanted to expand my knowledge in studies involved with marine animals, conservation, and ecology. This internship program had given me the chance to put my skills to the test. I had the pleasure of being mentored by Helen Killeen and Sadie Small in the Morgan lab. The study that I conducted was on the impacts of surface wind stress on fish larvae distribution.  I spent the summer looking at various samples from the night cruises that my mentors had collected over the past year. By looking through the dissecting microscope and seeing various types of invertebrates, crustaceans, and fish larvae was remarkably fascinating to me. I also learned about other different marine species, lab techniques, and data from conducting this type of study.

photo E. Hernandez
CCFRP photo with science crew showing a baby lingcod fish
E. Hernandez
Examples of fish larvae found from samples in the study
E. Hernandez
Eduardo looking at fish samples under the microscope

 

Furthermore, I also had the chance to contribute to the California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCFRP), which conducts a tag and release fishing with volunteer anglers to evaluate the effects of marine protected areas on populations of fish species along the entire California coast. It was a unique and unforgettable experience to be on a boat with my science crew and anglers. We caught various types of fish, identified, tagged, and released the fish to the ocean. I learned how marine biologists work on a research vessel and operate sampling and underwater equipment. Being part of a program such as this helped me to meet new people and build connections within a scientific community. For this internship opportunity, I am forever thankful and motivated to pursue my career goals.

Giovanna Poulos, Jospeh Lozano, Eduardo Hernandez (interns) and Helen Killeen (mentor). Right: CCFRP photo with volunteer angler and Eduardo showing a lingcod fish.
Giovanna Poulos, Jospeh Lozano, Eduardo Hernandez (interns) and Helen Killeen (mentor). 
CCFRP photo with volunteer angler and Eduardo showing a lingcod fish.
CCFRP photo with volunteer angler and Eduardo showing a lingcod fish. 

 

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Understanding the Importance of Animal Behavior in Science

Aplysia, also known as sea hares, eating sea ulva. PC: Ashley Smart
“Sharing is Caring”. Aplysia, also known as sea hares, eating sea ulva. PC: Ashley Smart

By Yangjum Sherpa 

My name is Yangjum Sherpa and I am a third year student at SRJC. My major is Biology and I am interested in the field of Neuroscience. It is difficult to find an internship however, I was very lucky to intern at UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab (BML). I was mentored by Ashley Smart, who is currently a PHD student. It was a wonderful experience to learn science with a friendly and down to earth mentor at a marine laboratory surrounded by breathtaking ocean view. After taking Bio 2.2 (Animal Biology) class, I was fascinated by different behaviors of animals based on their surroundings. When my professor announced the internship opportunity, I did not hesitate to apply. Reflecting back, I am glad I applied.

Ashley’s research is focused on Aplysia, cute sea slugs which can grow as large as 6.8 kg. The experiment was about how the ocean acidification is affecting the Aplysia’s response to different stimuli, for example food or other chemicals. Before the actual experiment, Ashley provided literature papers that covered knowledge about Aplysia and also about ocean acidification (OA). I also performed ethology and collected data on their behavior. I observed the Aplysia for over two hours and I should say that watching these creatures was one of the most pleasurable feelings (like an ASMR). Afterwards, I assisted Ashley with the experiment and learned about how an experiment is designed and processed. We had a total of twelve Aplysia, which were divided into six so that the experiment can be repeated twice and were exposed to ambient and OA habitat. Aplysia are known to be a fascinating research animal as they have evolved unique chemical defenses against predators. Food, Ink and Seawater were used as a form of stimuli and their behavior towards these stimuli were recorded for future behavior analysis. Since I am also interested in Neuroscience, it was very interesting to know that these creatures were used as models to learn about memory and learning because of their simple nervous system. Fun fact that the study of Aplysia for understanding how an organism’s neural behavior functions has led to the 2000 Nobel prize in medicine being co-awarded to Eric Kendel. Overall, one of the biggest learning experiences from my summer at BML was understanding about what a PHD degree meant as through these experiments, I was also shadowing my mentor. It gave me a good idea about what pursuing a PHD degree meant. I am very glad that I got this opportunity because I have learned many skills that will help me in my future endeavors. Lastly, I would like to thank my mentor and other BML representative who helped make this internship possible.

Yangjum Sherpa collecting some Sea Ulva for the sea hares. PC: Ashley Smart
Yangjum Sherpa collecting some Sea Ulva for the sea hares. PC: Ashley Smart
PC: Ashley Smart
PC: Ashley Smart
Me weighing these cute little sea hares. PC: Ashley Smart
Me weighing these cute little sea hares. PC: Ashley Smart

 

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Salty and Soggy: Understanding the role of crabs in California salt marshes

Blake searching through the salt marsh in Bodega Bay for the lined shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes). PC: Jan Walker
Blake searching through the salt marsh in Bodega Bay for the lined shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes). PC: Jan Walker

By Blake Nogleberg

My name is Blake Nogleberg and I am a fourth year SRJC student looking to pursue a career in the marine sciences. I worked alongside Graduate Student Jan Walker this summer.

As a kid I grew up only a short drive away from the Bodega Marine Lab (BML), and I was always intensely interested in what kind of work went on in this facility. So when the opportunity arose this summer to intern here, I did not hesitate to apply. My time at BML has been an amazing experience. I was able to work with and learn from some extremely talented scientists, help maintain field experiments in the salt marshes of Bolinas Lagoon, Tomales Bay, and Bodega Bay, as well as help conduct several laboratory experiments at BML. My mentor was Jan Walker, a PhD student from the Grosholz lab, and we examined the impact of the lined shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes) on the salt marsh plant community. Understanding the role of crabs in determining plant community composition is important when considering management strategies of foundational marsh species, such as cordgrass. Cordgrass has been targeted for management and restoration due to its amplitude of ecosystem services, such as sediment accretion, flood attenuation, and habitat for endangered species. We hypothesize that these crabs could impact the plant community by consuming dominant salt marsh plants (cordgrass and pickleweed), and by creating burrows in the marsh sediment, thereby changing sediment properties crucial for plant health (salinity, oxygen concentrations, etc.). Crabs may play a critical role in meditating stress for plants and, by understanding their role, we can better inform and bolster management and restoration in our northern California wetlands.

The field work portion was quite enjoyable. I spent most of the time chasing our crab friends and attempting to catch them without being pinched, their feisty attitude continually surprising me. There was a learning curve when it came to walking through the salt marsh, however I became proficient in navigating the spongy, quick sand-like landscape without swamping my boots or falling too many times. We woke up before the sun to catch the low tide, and we worked efficiently to collect data (and crabs) to make it back out of the marsh before high tide.

The lab work we did was interesting and engaging. I helped Jan setup two different feeding experiments to determine exactly what plants, and what part of the plant (roots or leaves), the crabs preferred. This portion of the internship allowed me to ask countless questions about our experiment, and the setup and execution of lab experiments in general. Additionally, I was able to get professional advice on how to navigate the unfamiliar territory of academia. It was infinitely valuable to be a part of Jan’s work, and the skills and knowledge I acquired over the summer have set me up to succeed in the next stages of academic life. I hope to use my experience here to further pursue a career in marine science.

 

Blake

 

Blake field site

 

Blake at BML

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Into the Velvet Jungle

Tyler and Suzanne
Tyler and Suzanne

By Tyler Schatto

Tyler Schatto is a student at Santa Rosa Junior College. He was mentored this summer by Luis Morales and Suzanne Olyarnik.

TylerIn 2019, Bodega Marine Reserve was my summer hangout spot. With my mentor, Luis A. Morales, Steward for BMR, I conducted field surveys, implemented and updated signage, and  utilized a selection of plant management techniques to reduce invasive species populations. Along the way, I learned several identification markers for coastal prairie plant and bird species, I learned how to work safely in rugged environments and now, I have a better understanding of land management techniques to restore native habitat and implement ecological enhancement projects.    

At BMR, conservation of native flora biodiversity is a primary focus. Velvet Grass (Holcus lanatus) is the greatest threat to native plant species here, wholly overtaking great swaths of native coastal prairie. Luis and the team at BMR are testing a method to reduce Velvet Grass populations by mowing two times per year instead of just once. The BMR team hypothesizes that the grass puts a large portion of its energy into growing its flowers, and that a second annual mow occuring after flowers have regrown and matured will lead to greater percentages of Velvet Grass dieoff. I was able to participate in the experiment by both mowing and observing test plots. Additionally hoeing and hand pulling in areas where the Velvet grass has the potential to spread quickly. 

thistle removalOther plant populations we managed included Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) by the bluffs, Rabbits Foot (Lagurus ovatum) and Rattlesnake Grass (Briza Maxima) in the coastal prairie, and spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) in the dunes and marshes, which each require their own specialized approach and adaptive land management technique.

From a wider perspective, my time was focused on learning many of the themes and overarching approaches used in natural land management. BMR uses adaptive management, a concept focused on the reactive reworking and adjusting of land management plans to cater to changes in the local environment.     

As such, the BMR Team and I met frequently, evaluating the state of the reserve and adjusting priorities. For example, after one land survey, we found a choke point where Velvet Grass was likely to spread rapidly into an area of pristine native coastal prairie. We were able to adapt our plans to focus on that area, hand pulling several of the most dangerous plants and spreading mulch to create a barrier beyond which the Velvet Grass will not spread.

Tyler and snakeAnother amazing opportunity I experienced was a nature hike through the saltwater marsh, led by former BMR director Peter. He showed a group of us almost every single plant, native or otherwise, that lives in the saltwater marsh along Bodega Bay. He has been leading these nature hikes for several years, and he and the BMR crew are able to talk about fluctuations in plant populations. There were several native plant populations that have rebounded surprisingly well - in one case, a plant population had increased from less than 10 individuals the previous year to well over 100 individuals at the time of our hike. Peter was able to show me the anatomical markers botanists utilize most often to identify and distinguish different plant species, which I was able to use directly in the field during surveys. My observations in the saltwater marsh helped me to think about the reserve as several smaller ecosystems, interconnected with complex relationships.

The SRJC-BML mentorship/internship program is valuable to anyone who is interested in life sciences, land management, or the sciences in general. It provides networking opportunities, career path guidance, and a very valuable perspective into the professional and academic sciences that is hard to acquire in a classroom, especially at a non-research-based community college. The people I met were unique and amazing individuals who showed a real interest in me, and the experiences I had, I will cherish forever. Few people are privileged with an opportunity to immerse themselves in a career before starting it, and this internship provided that for me.

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Chemistry in a Marine World

PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Gabriel Ng

By Daphne Bradley

Daphne Bradley is a second year at the Santa Rosa Junior College and is pursuing a degree in chemistry. This summer she worked with Sarah Merolla, the lab technician for the Bodega Ocean Acidification Research group. During her time at BML she collaborated on several projects related with seagrasses, mussels, and oysters.

I first began my journey at the UC-Davis Bodega Marine Lab through a class assignment at the SRJC. I contacted Kitty Brown, the Lab Manager of the Bodega Marine Lab, to setup a day for me to shadow someone using chemistry for real world applications. I was then placed in contact with Sarah Merolla, the lab manager and researcher for the Bodega Ocean Acidification Research (BOAR) program. On my shadow day, Sarah showed me multiple research projects that were all unique, inspiring, and innovative. There was so much to learn and write about that I was inspired to come back and learn more through the SRJC-BML internship program.

This summer at the UC-Davis Bodega Marine Lab, I had the opportunity to work with many passionate people and great thinkers, while gaining a lot of experience along the way. I wanted to gain hands-on experience of applying chemistry to projects and research outside of the classroom. My mentor, Sarah, introduced me to many people and projects that focused on advancing the scientific community with an extremely positive outlook. 

By helping with many research projects that take place at the lab, I learned to utilize equipment including a spectrophotometer and robotic titrator to study ocean acidification, and gained experience with common lab methods and practices. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work with Sarah on her research project that investigates whether seagrass can enhance oyster calcification by modifying the chemistry of seawater. The methods that are used to undergo such research are more intensive than I had expected from reading research projects in school. From planning the oysters’ diets to ensuring they all experience similar conditions during the experiment incubations, it was all detail-oriented and thought out. Through my time at the BML I have gained a lot of experience working in a lab, which I believe will help me in the future. 

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Daphne helping Sarah with her research project that uses chamber incubations and changes in total alkalinity to study the relationship between oysters and seagrass. PC: Sarah Merolla
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PC: Sarah Merolla
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Daphne using the spectrophotometer to analyze water samples taken at Bodega Bay, Tomales Bay, and the Hog Island Oyster Company. PC: Sarah Merolla
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Daphne collecting water samples to be later analyzed for pH and alkalinity, which will be part of a decade-long dataset examining changes in coastal seawater conditions over time. PC: Sarah Merolla

 

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SRJC-BML Internship Program 2019

Group
Summer 2019 SRJC-BML Interns and Mentors. Photo credit Gabriel Ng

By Hannah Palmer and Katie Dubois

Hannah and Katie are PhD Candidates at UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and are the co-directors of the SRJC-BML Internship Program for 2019.

Congratulations to all interns and mentors of the 2019 SRJC-BML Internship Program! Our summer was full of field work, lab studies, professional development, mentorship, and science! This was the fourth year of the SRJC-BML Internship Program and the first year that we were able to award stipends to some of our interns. This year, we hosted 15 interns in the program ranging in levels of participation from one day-per week to full time. Interns and mentors worked on a range of projects including: chemical linkage between plankton and deep-sea corals, defense mechanisms of marine invertebrates under predation, ocean engineering of underwater moorings, quantifying ecological interactions in seagrass and salt marsh habitats, impacts of copper toxicity on marine organisms, invasive species ecology in Tomales Bay,  and understanding the links between plankton and physical oceanography. We brought together the entire group for a Professional Development Workshop during which interns learned how to leverage this internship opportunity to pursue their individual career goals. We finished the summer with a banquet for all students and mentors at which each intern and mentor shared something about their summer experience. We are grateful to all of the support we received this year and we are so proud of all of the interns and mentors for a great summer of marine science! We are already looking forward to the SRJC-BML Internship Program in 2020! Check back soon for blog posts by each intern to hear about their unique summer internship experiences!

PC: Ashley Smart
PC: Ashley Smart
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Carina Fish
PC: Carina Fish
C: Gabriel Ng
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Jan Walker
PC: Jan Walker
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Alisha Saley
PC: Alisha Saley
PC: Katie Dubois
PC: Katie Dubois
PC: Gabriel Ng
PC: Gabriel Ng

 

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Q & A with SRJC Internship Alumn: Fabricio Gomez

F. Gomez

SRJC Intern Fabricio Gomez and BML graduate student mentor Katie DuBois survey the rocky intertidal during the Summer 2017 internship program. Fabricio is now completing a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in molecular cell biology at Sonoma State University.

Q: What kind of research experience did you have at BML and what did you learn about marine science or doing science in general?

A:  BML was an amazing experience. Being able to witness and contribute to lab procedures and field-work was really fun and fulfilling. Working with eelgrass was very fascinating, interesting. I had no idea the importance of this plant until I came to the lab.  Seeing the research that Katie [my BML graduate student mentor] is doing involving eelgrass and climate events was outstanding to witness. It was truly inspiring being taught by grad students who are so passionate about the field of marine science. I learned so many different things at BML that are so priceless and so essential. Thanks to Katie I was even able to do an experiment of my own with her guidance. Overall, I am very thankful and lucky for my experience at BML.

F. GomezQ: What was the most rewarding experience during your internship at BML?

A: Learning about different marine species and their importance in our ecosystems and the abilities (learning new lab techniques, using equipment, and working on experiments) that I acquired from my time at BML were the most rewarding. In addition to all the learning it was good to meet so many friendly people.

Q: What was a challenge that you overcame during your internship at BML?

A: A challenge that I overcame was the not asking questions in fear of looking dumb. Instead of ignoring something I did not know, at BML people would always have answers that were marine related. They helped me figure out a lot of science questions that I had!

Q: How has the SRJC-BML internship experience prepared you for your future career goals?

A: If it wasn’t for the SRJC I would have missed on what I consider one of the best experiences of my life. It is also a major stepping stone to the rest of my career and future. I am thankful that SRJC offers internships at BML because I feel that it has changed the lives of many people.

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Making Waves

You had me at "hello": Marlynn Rollins (right) introduced HBCU peers to a bat star during a 2018 visit. Marlynn (Howard University, Class of 2019) will join UC Davis' Graduate Group in Ecology, the Gaylord lab, and Sustainable Oceans NRT in Fall 2019.
You had me at "hello": Marlynn Rollins (right) introduced HBCU peers to a bat star during a 2018 visit. Marlynn (Howard University, Class of 2019) will join UC Davis' Graduate Group in Ecology, the Gaylord lab, and Sustainable Oceans NRT in Fall 2019.

Every summer since 2012, students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have conducted research at UC Davis as part of the UC-HBCU Initiative. And every summer, Rick Grosberg, Professor and Director of the Coastal and Marine Science Institute, and I have taken a group of these and other summer research students to the Bodega Marine Laboratory. Rick and I both got bitten by the research bug at marine labs and relish sharing something of that experience with our students. And we get to enjoy a day on the coast out of the summer heat. 

For many students, this trip provides their first encounter with living intertidal organisms, marine systems, and the Pacific Ocean.

After a walk along the bluffs -- punctuated by many photo ops -- led by Reserve Director Suzanne Olyarnik, Speakman Smith (Howard University) commented, "I felt as if I was on the edge of the world." 

The rocky intertidal at Bodega Marine Lab. Photo credit: Jaylen Parks/Tuskegee University.
The rocky intertidal at Bodega Marine Lab. Photo credit: Jaylen Parks/Tuskegee University. 

 

During the visit, students learned about marine and coastal ecosystems, upwelling, potential climate change effects, and ongoing research at BML. Plant ecologist Arquel Miller (Howard University) remarked, "I never knew about the existence of white abalone, let alone their endangered status. I found it fascinating to learn of the human impacts on this species and what Kristin and her team are doing..."

white abalone
BML researcher Kristin Aquilino introduced HBCU and CSU Northridge students to the white abalone restoration program.
The recent mussel die-off provided Rick with a teaching moment.
The recent mussel die-off provided Rick with a teaching moment.

Did a day at BML convince the plant scientistschemists, and molecular biologists on this year's field trip to jump to marine science? Probably not. But because of their experience with this very special place, they'll be better informed citizens and potential supporters of coastal and marine systems.

This year's group, from Howard University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Tuskegee University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Fort Valley State University, Florida A&M University, and CSU Northridge, with me, Rick, and current GGE grad student Fred Nelson (Howard University, Class of 2017)
This year's group, from Howard University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Tuskegee University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Fort Valley State University, Florida A&M University, and CSU Northridge, with me, Rick, and current GGE grad student Fred Nelson (Howard University, Class of 2017)

 

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