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Allison Yuan

The End of the Journey

posted August 07, 2015

The last few weeks of the internship were spectacular. From July 20 to July 21 we went camping in Pinnacles National Park, where we saw beautiful geologic structures and a plethora of wildlife. Since I had never been camping before, I was quite excited for this trip, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. In addition, we finished up our projects, and mine yielded intriguing results. Species that survived mass extinctions tended to be slightly larger than those that went extinct; however, the difference was too small to be significant. Ecology, on the other hand, seemed to have an impact: mass extinction survivors were usually slow-moving suspension feeders, while fast, pelagic predatory organisms had the greatest risk of going extinct. Finally, we concluded the internship by presenting our projects to the general interns and graduate students.

This program has been very memorable, and I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of it. Working on research projects with fellow aspiring scientists has been an honor that I will miss. I will also miss being at Stanford and seeing the geo corner’s beautiful sandstone pillars every day. Overall, the summer has been a wonderful one!


posted July 16, 2015

A few weeks have passed, and much has happened. On July 8th, we took a field trip to the Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey Bay. We first explored the tide pools by the bay, which were scintillatingly beautiful. Shells from various scallops, clams and mussels lay draped the ground like scattered jewelry, and the exposed seaweed on the shore was velvet that coated the rocks. The tide pools themselves were filled with various organisms like anemones, starfish, and a colorful assortment of molluscs. Afterwards, we toured the marine station and listened to the scientists there impart their research. The experience was both extremely informative and aesthetically wonderful.

Last week we started working on our own projects, which we complete in pairs. My partner is Connie, and we are looking into whether certain characteristics such as size and ecology affect a genus’s likelihood of surviving a mass extinction. To accomplish this, we will first amass two lists of genera – those that succumbed to the mass extinction and those that survived. Having done so, we will compare the characteristics of the genera and attempt to spot a trend. Although completing and analyzing the research will be challenging, I am sure that the experience will be exciting and worthwhile.

Now that we have begun our projects, we are spending less time on data collecting; however, the atmosphere remains relaxed and fun. I can’t wait to keep going and see what else lies in store.

The First Fortnight

posted July 04, 2015

Having no previous experience in internships or scientific research, I had little idea of what it would be like to spend eight weeks working on a paleobiology research project at Stanford. Thus, I was quite enthusiastic to begin my internship and looked forward to contributing to science.

The project which my supervisor is conducting focuses on the evolution of body size of organisms over time and attempts to understand the cause of such changes. As the days passed, thing settled into a fairly predictable rhythm. We usually start of the morning with an interactive activity during which groups of interns examine rocks, fossils, and other geological specimens, and then share their observations and hypotheses with the other groups. The rest of the morning typically consists of data collection. With a partner, we scour research papers for information about the size, optimum environment temperature/pH/salinity, metabolism and other aspects of various bacteria genera. Having found useful information, we arrange the numbers onto an excel spreadsheet, which I assume, later on, will facilitate the analysis of body size in the organisms we measured. We break for lunch at 12 PM and return at 1:30; we are free to explore the campus during that time. After lunch, we resume data collection, occasionally discussing research papers written by other scientists or listening to presentations by earth science researchers.

On June 23 we visited the Hoover Tower. The view from the top of the building was spectacular.

View from the top of Hoover Tower

On June 26, we visited two beaches, Capitola State Beach and Pomponio State Beach. Capitola had beautiful, painted sediment layers draped with vegetation and moss, and its coast was lined with piles of rocks that bore the ivory fossilized remains of clams and other organisms. Rugged and unkempt, the area was a primordial passage, pulled out from an ancient chapter of geologic time.

Mosaic of beach images
Pomponio had tall, sandy cliffs, and while it did not have as many fossils as Capitola, it was nevertheless geologically interesting. It also hosted a variety of fauna, as shown by the marine carcasses, including crabs and even a baby seal, that lay scattered around the beach.



The past two weeks have been educational and inspirational, and I hope that the rest of this internship will be equally so, if not more so.