A person in a white lab coat holding a sample in a lab.
Patrick Phengsy Preparing to Perform Gel Electrophoresis of an Extracted DNA Sample

A Dive into the Genetic Distribution of Eelgrass within Tomales Bay

A Santa Rosa Junior College - Bodega Marine Laboratory Internship Program Story

Patrick Phengsy is a fourth-year undergraduate student who just completed his Associate's Degree in Natural Sciences at the SRJC. He will be transferring to UC Santa Barbara for the upcoming Fall 2023 quarter, where he aims to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and pursue a career in medicine. 

This summer, I had the fantastic opportunity to work at the Bodega Marine Lab in partnership with the SRJC under Katie Erickson. My work this summer was mainly focused on further addressing the genotype distribution and demography of Zostera sp., otherwise known as Eelgrass, within Tomales Bay. All analyses were conducted in the laboratory setting, specifically in the Brown Lab, which was led by the excellent PI, Dr. Anya Brown. Throughout my experience, we implemented a variety of laboratory techniques and protocols, such as pipetting various volumes, DNA extractions, PCR amplification, and Gel Electrophoresis. Previously research had been conducted and published on the same topic I aimed to explore, where the investigators successfully analyzed the genetic distribution of Eelgrass within Tomales Bay. Although their data was relevant and made a substantial contribution to local marine science, the study consisted of specimens collected off specifically the east side of Tomales Bay. During the summer, Katie and I set out to address whether the west side of Tomales Bay looked similar in terms of genotype. Our specimens were collected off a simple cove located close to White Gulch around the west side peninsula of Tomales Bay. Our specimens were then brought back into the lab, where we performed DNA extraction and successfully determined the genotype of our various samples. 

I have always had a keen interest in working in a laboratory setting. I don’t know what it is, but something as simple as pressing a plunger on a micropipette and being around fancy expensive machinery excites me. Prior to this program, the only laboratory experience I had, was developed from taking various labs as part of core classes at the SRJC. Although I acquired basic lab skills, working in the Brown Lab this summer allowed me to develop these lab skills to a more advanced level, where I gained confidence in performing procedures and protocols that are likely to be familiar in the future of my career. Katie was also an amazing mentor this summer. Not only was she consistently supportive of my interests and goals, but she also maintained great flexibility in terms of my scheduling. I think at this point, we all get a little bit of anxiety while working with molecular techniques in the lab, but Katie did a great job of making her confidence in me very obvious, which in the end, made me less anxious. This experience at the BML was overall very eye-opening, exposing all of us directly to the scientific community and what’s likely to come next in our academic adventures.

About the Program: 

The SRJC-BML Internship Program provides summer research opportunities for Santa Rosa Junior College students at the Bodega Marine Laboratory.

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