Nizhoni Goldtooth is currently a student at Santa Rosa Junior College and plans to transfer to Sonoma State University in the spring of 2022 to pursue a Bachelors of Science degree in biology with a concentration in physiology. This summer she worked with her mentor Carina Fish on a coastal sciences and public health issue in San Francisco.
You may think the SRJC-BML internship is only for those who are solely interested in the marine sciences, but there is far more to it than that. This summer I had the honor of working with my mentor Carina Fish, on a coastal and public health issue in the Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco. Through this internship I got to see how coastal issues are interdisciplinary where I worked with medical doctors, oceanographers, geologists, health officials, sociologists and many others to achieve a goal of bringing attention to the health and coastal injustices going on at Hunters Point Shipyard. This site has a history of radiochemical experiments, nuclear decontamination and testing. GreenAction, a community-based organization, is concerned about the potential for sea level rise to release contaminants from the coastal Superfund sites into the Bay (both the estuary and neighboring community). Tasked by GreenAction to develop sampling plans for independent testing, our goal for this summer was to complete phase one: determining the feasibility of a testing plan given the budget, time, and permitting constraints. Subsequent phases (which are predicated on phase one) include executing the sampling plan and analyses, and collating the data to produce contaminant concentration maps. Through this experience, I learned and researched 1) the complex history of the shipyard, 2) what type of protocols and analytical tests to use for specific contaminants, 3) how to navigate the many different agencies and stakeholders involved in order to define a testing site, and 4) the basics of coding in R. Doing so enabled me to work with an array of people.
Tenzing is a MCB transfer student at UC Berkeley. He is interested in pursuing a career medicine. Tenzing was mentored by graduate student Priya Shukla this summer (2021).
I applied for this internship program thanks to the encouragement of professor Shawn Brumbaugh. Some things I was looking forward to when applying for this internship were getting to work in the field and get a deeper understanding of how research works outside of the classroom setting; I wanted to see how marine scientists operate and contribute to their fields.
For my 2021 BML internship, I helped my mentor Priya Shukla with her research project on the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas. The purpose of Priya’s study is to explore whether or not thermal conditioning of juvenile C.gigas in nurseries can reduce their mortality in thermally stressful environments once out-planted. For my internship, I helped Priya tag the oyster bags with zip ties, put the oysters out in the field, set up temperature sensors, and conduct mortality surveys. Outside of working in the field I also learned how to use Image J to measure the lengths of oysters using photos and a ruler for scale.
During my internship, I got plenty of experience doing fieldwork and got a close look at the research being conducted at the graduate student level. Being out in the field was one of my highlights for the internship. I got the opportunity to work in the low intertidal zone and saw different marine species, some of which include crabs, jellyfishes, and sea anemones. One obstacle working out in the field was walking in the mud. On my second day out on the field while walking on mud my boot sank too deep and while trying to pull it out I accidentally took off my boot and stumbled into the water. The rest of the day I worked with wet socks. After doing it for a couple of days I got used to the squishy/ sinking feeling of the mud and being wet. One of the biggest learning opportunities working in the field was seeing just how difficult it can be to make sure everything is going smoothly. During our first survey of oyster mortality in one of our sites, we noticed that a large number of oysters had gotten out of their bags. This was despite us double-checking to make sure that none of the bags had any tears in them and that they were closed tightly. Priya quickly had to accept and adapt to the unfortunate situation. Seeing just how difficult it can be for everything to go as planned in field experiments made me more appreciative of the work done by researchers.
One valuable skill I learned during my internship was the use of ImageJ. ImageJ is an app that can measure the lengths of different objects in a picture using a reference measurement. For my internship, I used a standard ruler to set the scale which was used to measure the lengths of different oysters grown in the lab. Image J is a very helpful tool not just for research but also for real-world situations. When I was moving to my new place I needed to measure the length of my room to order a desk online. Since I did not have any measuring tape I used image J to make the measurement using my phone as a reference. My time as a BML intern has provided me with lots of wonderful experiences working out in the field and learning new skills. I would recommend this internship to anyone looking to expand their view on the field of Biology.
Lupe Carrasco is an alumni of SRJC, returning to pursue a degree in biology.
I spent this summer working on an original research project with my mentor Veronica, a Ph.D candidate at UC Davis. The beginning was spent becoming familiar with scientific material relating to changes in the ocean and the effects on marine organisms. We studied the California mussel this summer. The purpose of the experiment was to investigate any evidence of correlation between changes in the environment and changes in mussel shells. A majority of the work was done using ImageJ image analysis software to collect both quantitative data and qualitative data. The quantitative data was taken at the cross section of shells looking at their overall thickness. Qualitative data was done by analysing the microstructure and determining whether a shell had ordered or disordered structure in their calcite crystals. We are still in the middle stages of the project and will eventually run regressions in RStudio with environmental data in order to get a clearer picture of what's really going on in these mussels and the ocean.
Originally, I had begun this internship with various questions relating to the process that was necessary to produce a quality experiment in biology. My mentor Veronica gave me some great insight into the mindset and work that goes into producing quality research. Veronica has answered my question of how we find correlation between cause and effect in biology. After discovering that most questions in biology don’t have a direct and linear answer, a metaphorical gate in my life has opened into the vast and volatile world of biological research, and one that I am eager to continue venturing into.
I was incredibly fortunate this summer to have been presented with the opportunity. Until recently, I was unaware of how drastically and consequential the effects of global climate change had been affecting the ocean. After directly inspecting them myself and reading up on scientific research, I really began to understand and respect the importance of marine biology. This fascinating and almost alien world beneath the depths of the water surface has enthralled me through most of the summer. At one point I was only strictly listening to deep sea based short horror stories. I intend to continue checking on the status of new studies being reported from the enigmatic aqueous world. While I still remain in a partial limbo attempting to decide which academic path I will commit to, it is with great assurance that I add a new possibility in studying an aspect of marine biology in my future.
Oliver Sereni is a third year SRJC student who will be transferring to UC Davis in the fall of 2022 to pursue a degree in Zoology. He was an intern for the SRJC-BML program in the summer of 2021 and was mentored by Julie Gonzalez.
Julie Gonzalez’s study takes place in the salt marshes of San Francisco bay, where her focus is on what effects prolonged exposure to seawater will have on the communities of organisms within the marsh. I assisted her in taking vegetation measurements, recording populations of invertebrates, and measuring sediment traits. The data gathered by this study will help the park management determine how to best help the marsh, as well as give some insight to the effects of sea level rise on the marshes at a community level.
This experiment is important for two different reasons. Tidal salt marshes are one of the many communities that will be greatly impacted by sea level rise, not only because of the chemical changes of the ocean water, but because the organisms that live there are very particular about the amount of time they spend in the water. A more immediate issue is the road that intersects parts of the marsh. The problem arises on the king tide, when the road floods and the parts of the marsh that are separated from the ocean become inundated with seawater. The culverts underneath the road are blocked, and Julie’s research will assist park management in finding a solution to the impacts on the back marsh, whether that means clearing the culverts or moving the road entirely. I assisted Julie in taking measurements of the organisms found within each of the 48 plots, as well as measuring the qualities of the sediment.
I am grateful that I was able to be involved with the field work for this project, despite some restrictions because of Covid-19. As I am a biology major who is on the track to UC Davis, this internship was the perfect opportunity to experience and participate in real scientific research, and I am very thankful I got to be a part of it.
Seraiah is a general biology major, transferring to UC Santa Cruz from SRJC in the fall. This summer she worked with her mentor Tallulah Winquist.
This summer, my mentor Tallulah Winquist and I did a review of the state of the science pertaining to kelp forests and their ameliorating effects on ocean acidification. I read a bunch of papers, took notes about them, and discussed them in meetings with my mentor. We organized the information we found to answer two questions: “What factors alter kelp forests’ ameliorating effects?” and “What factors help make kelp forests more resilient to climate change?”
I am still uncertain what field of biology I want to specialize in. I’ve been fascinated by marine biology since I was a child, watching ocean documentaries and looking through this one marine biology book my mom had all the time. I thought this internship would be the perfect opportunity to get to know more about the field first hand. Even though my mentor and I weren’t able to do all that we hoped with her field work and data analysis, I wasn’t disappointed. I still learned so much from what we did with our review of the science surrounding kelp forests and their ameliorating effects on climate change.
More generally, aside from all that I learned about kelp forests, this experience taught me a lot about various methods of data collection and analysis in marine science, especially those to do with carbon chemistry, photosynthesis, and stable isotope analysis. I’m much more confident in my ability to read and understand complex research topics. I was also introduced to R and learned how to do some basic coding and graphing on my own.
I really appreciate all of the guidance and insight provided to me from my mentor and all of the speakers at the professional development meetings. Everyone was so supportive! Tallulah always made and asked such thoughtful comments and questions to help get me thinking about things from different scientific perspectives as opposed to just absorbing the information. And it was great to hear from everyone about their college and career experiences. I feel like I have a much better idea about what it means for me to be entering the field of biology, and what my options are in the future as far as grad school and research. I can’t wait to try to get involved in more research at my next college when I transfer this fall!
Here are some interesting figures I encountered during my literature review...
PC: Hirsh, H.K., Nickols, K.J., Takeshita, Y., Traiger, S.B., Mucciarone, D.A., Monismith, S., and Dunbar, R. B. 2020. Drivers of biogeochemical variability in a central California kelp forest: Implications for local amelioration of ocean acidification. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 125: e2020JC016320.
By Pemba Sherpa
Over the course of eight weeks, I had the opportunity to work with Veronica, a Ph.D. student at UCD, to learn about mussel shells, and look at their growth pattern over time. Her study mainly focused on the species, Mytilus californianus, also known as California mussels. Prior to this internship, I had some knowledge about mussel shells from my Zoology class. However, I did not know that they could be used as environmental recorders. It was interesting to learn how they can hold information about their environments in their shell growth bands.
The main purpose of this project was to see changes in growth band patterns of California mussels in response to environmental parameters such as temperature, upwelling values, and rainfall records. We acquired a decade long data from the BOON (Bodega Ocean Observing Node) website on all these parameters. The weekly data averages were then compiled into spreadsheets and were downloaded into Rstudio to make graph plots. We also looked at the cross-section of modern mussel shells to identify the dark and light patterns. Veronica helped me differentiate between different layers of the shell cross-section. The Aragonite layer is mostly made up of calcium carbonate, it is the main layer of protection. I was also able to calibrate and use grayscale format on images and measure the inner calcite layer to estimate the growth of the shells using ImageJ.
I am very thankful to all the mentors, organizers, and who made this internship possible. I was able to familiarize myself with research and get an idea of how research is done. This opportunity helped me to learn about data analysis and data management using different tools such as RStudio, Excel, and ImageJ. I also learned how to plot graphs by coding in RStudio. It has also given me a chance to learn more about marine science and how we can use different structural changes to learn about how the environment has been changing over the years. Although this internship was remotely held, I was still able to learn a lot. I would like to thank my mentor Veronica who was very patient and helpful during this whole process. This experience has also helped me with professional growth, as it opened a lot of networking opportunities and also was a great research experience.
Pemba Sherpa was an intern for SRJC-BML 2020 program. She will be transferring to UC Davis for Fall 2020 to pursue a degree in Biochemistry. This summer, she worked with Veronica Padilla Vriesman in the Ocean Climate Lab.
By Sonali Langlois
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 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.
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.
By Kelsi Hope
Kelp forests are integral to marine ecosystems along our coast because they provide habitat and food for numerous species. The Pacific Purple Sea Urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, will mow down the kelp forests if their populations are not controlled. In northern California, the sunflower sea star, Pycnopodia helianthoides, is a major predator of urchins. The sunflower sea star plays an essential role in maintaining the harmonious balance between the kelp forests and the urchins who walk among them. Sea star populations rapidly declined due to sea star wasting disease, which is now recognized as one of the largest die-offs of wild marine species. I recall noticing the effects of the disease during childhood when I would tag along with my dad to go crabbing. We would reel in crab pots to find sea stars that appeared to be dissolving before our eyes. As a child, I was dumbfounded by these melting sea stars. It wasn’t until my biology classes in college that I learned what was actually happening to them. As sea stars have continued disappearing, urchins have had more freedom to dominate large areas of the ocean floor. Hungry urchins have extensively reduced the kelp forests along the California coast. What remains after the decimation of a kelp forest is a barren wasteland, which cannot support the rich marine life who once lived there.
Over the summer, I had the pleasure of working with Kristen Elsmore, a PhD candidate at UC Davis and a first-time mentor with the Santa Rosa Junior College-Bodega Marine Lab Internship Program. The aim of our research was to gain insights regarding developmental differences between purple urchins in areas where kelp was abundant vs. areas where kelp was scarce (a.k.a. “urchin barrens”). To do so we measured the jaws of the urchins and compared them based on their origin, kelp forest or urchin barren. The comparisons were made to determine if urchins, like many other organisms, allocate their nutrients in a particular manner to maximize their fitness as environmental conditions shift. If we had observed that the urchins had larger jaws in areas where food was scarce and smaller jaws in areas where food was abundant, it would suggest that an adaptive response had been stimulated by the limited food availability. Organisms usually follow a developmental pattern that is shaped by their environment. With that in mind, urchins would presumably respond to food scarcity by allocating nutrients to their jaw development to increase their ability to collect food.
I went into this project thinking that we would find evidence for a plastic response, a shift in resource allocation, in the purple urchins. I was humbled when I analyzed the data and found that there was incredibly high similarity between urchins from kelp forests and those from urchin barrens. Based upon the analysis, we would infer that the relationship between urchins sizes, tooth lengths and tooth weights is the same across all habitat types. There were little to no differences between the sizes of urchins in kelp forests and those in barrens. Although this isn’t the most exciting news to report, it is valuable information for those who will study urchin development in the future. The results didn’t turn out as we had expected, but that’s SCIENCE!
The 2020 BML summer internship experience was vastly different from the previous years due to the occurrence of COVID-19, which meant we were required to do everything virtually. Field work was eliminated completely. We were tasked with navigating a new style of research that relies on computer skills, which might become increasingly common in the future. Instead of taking measurements by hand, I learned how to use image processing programs that allowed me to take measurements virtually. I also got familiar with using a coding language to create meaningful graphs and diagrams from our data. Had this internship not been virtual, I might not have shifted my focus towards these technical skills. I tend to gravitate towards a more hands-on style of work, but I'm grateful that the circumstances guided me to pursue a new set of skills.
Although we weren’t able to meet in person, there was a profound show of support from the Bodega Marine Lab coordinators and mentors. They managed to create a unified atmosphere despite our separation. I was pleasantly surprised by their ability to balance professionalism and altruism. Thank you to all of the esteemed individuals who made this experience possible. I would like to give a special thanks to my mentor, Kristen Elsmore, for showing nothing but patience and support as I navigated my way through this virtual internship.
Kelsi Hope plans to transfer to UC Santa Barbara in 2021 to pursue a degree in marine biology. Over the summer, she worked with Kristen Elsmore, a PhD candidate from the Gaylord Lab at BML.
By Lena Ballard
Like many, I spent this summer trying to define a “new normal”. In contrast to last summer--which included hands-on work with marine life, knee deep in tidepools--the SRJC internship instead introduced me to new methods to research marine science, virtually. We faced a unique set of challenges, like developing online communications and learning how to stay engaged with onscreen tasks and information, which required flexibility to evolve and quickly adapt. Failure became common, even welcomed, as I tried my hand at new skills and experiences. Although difficult, I am thankful for this experience, as it not only strengthened my ability to adapt to sudden change, but also to take things in stride and truly embrace the unknown.
Broadly, the aim of our team was to explore the impact of changing ocean carbonate chemistry on calcification responses in marine organisms through an in depth analysis of published primary literature. Using a similar approach, individually I explored how changing seawater chemistry influences an organism's ability to produce and transport neurotransmitters within the body and how this relates to visualized behaviors. As I have a special interest in biochemistry, physiology, and behavioral studies, it was a treat to explore literature that intersected my group’s interests and my own. While working as a team with two grad students (Alisha Saley and Aaron Ninokawa) and two other interns (Inder and Katarina), I found a place to ask questions, consider further exploration of ideas, and propose explanations unique to my interests. This environment pushed me to grow as a scientist, especially in my ability to explore and ask questions. Additionally, having my input value as an equal contributor significantly reinforced my confidence in participating in collaboration.
Originally, my goal with this internship revolved around the opportunity to interact with a scientific mentor. However, through this program I have gained a deeper appreciation for making connections and having scientific support. In addition to the nuanced work we did as a smaller team, I greatly benefitted from the larger intern cohort meeting experiences as well. Specifically, our professional development meetings were consistently well crafted, thoughtful, and meaningful--despite having to be held remotely. Gaining an understanding of states of ‘flow’ and how to utilize them, learning to embrace and redefine failure, and knowing how to get ‘unstuck’ are development skills that will resonate with me moving forward as a scientist. In addition I was able to work on developing networking and communication skills, and learn about transferring to university and the process of entering into a graduate program. It is this, in combination with the hands-on research experience as a collaborator, that makes the SRJC internship program professionally inclusive.
I found my people!
The BML internship experience is one that will stay with me for a lifetime. These people have supported me, valued my contributions and encouraged me to pursue my goals. I have been provided with a foundation for success and given the tools to tackle challenges as they come. I am endlessly thankful for the opportunity I had to work with, learn from, and get to know the phenomenal humans at the Bodega Marine Lab.
Lena Ballard is a biochemistry undergraduate at SRJC. This is her second year participating in the SRJC-BML internship program. She was mentored by PhD students Alisha Saley and Aaron Ninokawa of the Gaylord lab.
By Katarina Rivinius
For most of my high school and early college experience, marine biology was something that greatly sparked my interest. I went into college pursuing a major in marine biology. However, overtime I found a passion for chemistry and molecular biology, which later drove me to change my major to cell and molecular biology. Though I made this change, my admiration for marine science remains. In this internship, I got to channel my passion for molecular biology and channel it towards thinking about ocean acidification and its effects on energy allocation in the cells of calcifying organisms.
Working alongside my lab mentors, Aaron Ninokawa and Alisha Saley, and two other interns, Lena and Inder, we collaborated on remote research (reading scientific papers, data extraction, etc.) on ocean acidification (OA) and seawater freshening, and how this has shifted the ocean’s carbonate system, and in turn physiologically affected calcifying organisms such as mussels, oysters, and snails.
Back in February, I was working with Aaron Ninowaka and Kristen Elsmore at the Bodega Marine Lab, assisting them with some of their lab experiments and side projects. Other than that, I had never done any kind of official internship work before. This internship has granted me new skills and has turned my weaknesses into strengths. I learned how to perform data extraction for meta-analysis, I am a stronger scientific thinker and reader, and I feel more confident in my early position as a scientist. I can thank that to the research itself, as well as the weekly professional development meetings in which we were offered advice on navigating the journey through the scientific world.
This internship was different than it would have been if we weren’t experiencing these crazy coronavirus times. I am forever grateful to the graduate students and workers of the Bodega Marine Lab who worked hard to make the program proceed.
Katarina Rivinius took part in the 2020 SRJC-BML summer internship. She is a student at the SRJC and has plans for transfer in Fall 2022, pursuing a major in Cell and Molecular biology. In the long term, she hopes to go to graduate school and pursue a career in academia.