No lab? No problem; My summer with foraminifera
As a rising third year student at SRJC, I spent my spring semester hoping against hope that I would get an internship despite the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s why I was beyond thrilled to discover that I had been accepted as an intern at BML! This internship was my very first research experience and it taught me so much even though I never set foot in a lab once. My mentor Hannah Palmer, was amazing-she helped me design an experiment I could carry out from my own home and offered me different opportunities along every step of the way to practice a new skill or meet another scientist.
The experiment Hannah and I created involved measuring the shells of two species of foraminifera, Bolivina spissa, and Quinqueloculina to see how their sizes changed in the Tanner Basin off the coast of Southern California over the past 5,000 years and how those changes might be related to climate and oceanographic change. I started off by learning about how ocean environments are changing due to human activity and pollution and about how foraminifera record their environment by building their shells differently based on the habitat they are in. I chose to focus on forams because I had learned about them a little in school and I was curious to learn more when I found out that they are able to teach us about how our choices as a species are impacting their world at the bottom of the ocean. Then I got to begin with data collection using ImageJ and interpretation through graphs that I made using R. In the end, I learned that B. spissa changed much more over time than Quinqueloculina and that forams from the open ocean are much smaller than those from the coast.
Over the course of the process, Hannah encouraged me to apply to present my project at the SACNAS diversity in STEM conference and helped me draft an abstract to submit as part of the application. She and the other internship coordinator, Ashley Smart, also arranged a weekly meeting for all the interns where we got to meet researchers and PhD candidates who shared their work and their stories with us. Many of these were particularly inspiring to me because they also came from community college backgrounds and showed so much passion for the animals and ecosystems they studied.
I am extremely honored and grateful to have been a part of this internship. Marine biology was always interesting to me, but my experience at BML helped spark that interest into an ambition and curiosity to learn more and do more in the world of research and marine life. Thank you for expanding my view of the world and the possibilities for my future.
Biography: Sonali Langlois is third year Biology Major at Santa Rosa Junior College. She was an intern in the 2020 SRJC-BML Summer Internship Program working with Hannah Palmer.