All good things must come to an end...
posted August 11, 2017
I can’t believe the program is almost over! The great fun and accomplishments that took place really made time fly by.
We have finished our butterfly measurements now, completing four books of butterflies and getting halfway through a book of moths. While the butterflies were great to look at, we all felt relief at being done with measuring base-apical wing size and body lengths of butterflies and moths. However, it’s great to know that people have been able to use our data in their research projects already. Speaking of research projects, these have been occupying the most time in our program now.
My research project is about marine arthropods, specifically the relationships between body size, feeding mode and the extinction trends of them. Me and my partner Ryan have been experimenting with the data that we have. Our data is from the Stanford Paleosize Database, and we specifically look for the data that has biovolume and feeding mode. While this limits our data set quite a bit, there are still many data points for us to use. Using our data, we have been able to produce some beautiful (I think) graphs with lots of colors. However, these were produced with R, a programming language that we have been learning (or trying to learn). Unfortunately, while most of the graphs were being produced, Ryan had to go to Guatemala for a service trip. Ryan was definitely the coder of our partnership, so I had to polish up on my coding quite a bit. Fortunately with the help of Noel I was able to finish up our graphs and most of the writing for our poster. When Ryan came back, we quickly wrapped up the plotting and analyses. We then created our poster. Finally, we went to the downstairs of the Mitchell Building, where we printed our poster using the huge printer. It was satisfying to see our weeks of hard work finally materializing before our eyes.
However, we did not only work on our posters and butterfly measurements. We went on many weekly excursions to various fun places throughout Stanford. The first was the Hoover Tower. We walked there and got in a long line and eventually got into the elevator to reach the top. From there, we were presented with a stunning panorama of all of Stanford. We walked around the top and eventually went down. Another time, we went to the Cantor Art museum where we split up and some of us started drawing. I produced a piece that was very colorful and interesting by copying the other things I saw in the museum. Additionally, I saw an amazing painting, when I first saw it, I thought it was a blank canvas that was unfinished, but it actually was a work of art. When we needed a break from the poster creation, we went outside to try and throw a boomerang we found. Unfortunately, no one knew how to properly throw one, and eventually it got stuck in a tree. Outside of Stanford, we also went canoeing in the Redwood City Harbor. We all gathered at the Mitchell Building around 8:00 and got into the vans. After a while, we arrived at the Marine Science Institute. There we had a short exercise in reading maps and learned how to paddle. We got fitted for life jackets and moved all the canoes into the shore. One by one, we got in and started practicing our maneuvers such as turning and backpedaling. We the paddled around Bear Island and conducted a bunch of tests like water turbidity, phosphorus content, and oxygen levels. While on the water we got an amazing view of the surrounding area and also got to find some mussels and other animals. Afterwards, we came back to shore and cleaned the canoes. We got a tour of the aquarium and saw sharks, flounders, and crabs before heading back.
Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end, and I was faced with the very last day of our internship. Today, we were going to both watch and present research projects. We sat through several very interesting recaps of various labs and the progress that they made. We had a quick lunch break and then it was my group’s turn to present. We showed off our poster to several groups of people and then watched other groups. Afterwards we all got Stanford Earth hats and eclipse sunglasses! We then took a last group photo and said our goodbyes.
After such an amazing and wonderful experience, I am very glad I applied to this program (thanks for recommending this program for me Prof. Payne!). Many thanks to Noel for helping me with my research and being a very supportive mentor. Also thanks to the Stanford staff that made this experience possible for me. I really had a great time with all the other interns and learned so much!
Only a couple more weeks left...
posted July 25, 2017
So far, the program has been about the same, just as exciting and fun. I’ll try to recap all the great things we’ve done so far.
For the most part, we have been measuring the base-apical wing length and the body length of our butterflies. While the task may seem monotonous, many of the butterflies were pretty cool looking and big (pic below). Having larger butterflies also made me and my partner (Arash) go through the books faster. This was great because we got to see more varieties of butterflies and gather a more diverse data set for Noel.
However, measuring butterflies was not all that we have done. Noel often has interesting professors and researchers come over and present their research. Some of these include projects about the microevolutionary adaptations of yeast, geometric cell patterns in Cambrian-Ordovician marine worms, and satellite usage to map rainforests. Additionally, during lunch we had many other activities such as learning from an undergraduate panel of various students, receiving general advice regarding career exploration, and touring the inside of a lab where we got to examine the equipment and ask questions about the setup.
As breaks between the data collection, Noel would kindly provide us with articles to read, which we would then later discuss in groups, asking us questions such as how to make the graphs and titles clearer. This was a great opportunity, as we were allowed to critique published articles, which allowed us to see ways that we could improve our own research. Speaking of our own research, me and my partner (Ryan) started our own research project. We decided to examine the relationship between feeding mode, body size, and extinction trends. We then created a proposal with an amazing title (see pic) and started our research. After struggling a little through R, our statistical programming language, we eventually produced a couple graphs with a little perseverance and assistance from Noel.
In the middle of all this, we were treated to another amazing experience by the program leaders: a trip to Pinnacles National Park. We first went met together at the Winchester Transit Center. From there we drove all the way to Patriot Park in Salinas Valley. It was hidden away among a vast expanse of grapevines and had a playground on it. Naturally, being mature Stanford Earth Young Investigators, we played “lava monster” on it until it was lunch time. After lunch, we then drove to two roadside locations with fossils in both of them. The first site had a large assortment of clam fossils (pic attached) that were incredibly easy to find. We just had to pick up a couple of rocks and there would be clam shells in them. Next, we went to an area with crab fossils. These were a little harder to find, but with a little elbow grease, we eventually found some (pic below). We then got to the campsite and set up our tents. Before dinner, we had a little time left so we decided to go to the nearby pool. Being the studious high schoolers we were, we played “Marco Polo” for a while before heading back to get dinner started. Our dinner was chicken fajitas and everyone thought it was delicious, unfortunately, the wasps thought so too, and we spent a lot of effort trying to run away from or swat them away from our food. Afterwards, we looked at the stars and set up a moth light and found a huge Sphinx Moth that was about two or three inches long. The next morning, we got up and ate breakfast and packed up camp. Then we went to the Pinnacles trailhead and got started on our hike. Along the way, Noel pointed out some cool geological formations and explained the history behind them. Eventually we got to the top and had an amazing view (panoramo below)! We then headed back and went home.
In summary, these few weeks were just as great as the first couple ones. So far, I am still enjoying this program as I did when I first started.
First Weeks of Stanford Earth Young Investigators
posted July 05, 2017
Hi, I’m David Shih and this is my first blog entry. So far, the entire program has been amazing, and I’ve not only contributed to important research, but
have learned a lot about paleobiology and had a great time. I’m going to try and go through what fun things have happened so far in this entry.
First, we went to the orientation day on June 20th. While orientations may not sound like the most exciting thing ever, this one was very interesting.
Before it started, people drifted slowly in and awkwardly sat down and stared around the room, unsure of what to do. However, Jenny had prepared great
activities to get us to know each other. First was a bingo game where you had to find people and ask them if they could "name three dinosaurs" or "had
been born out of state" in order to fill in your squares. Next, we were divided up into groups and went throughout the Earth Sciences building looking
at cool things such as trilobites and pyrite. Then, we sat through a not-so-exciting (but important) safety talk by Stanford’s lab safety coordinator.
Afterwards, we went on a short tour of campus, much of which I had already seen because I did the Stanford High School Summer College program last year,
but was still refreshing. After such a great orientation day, I was raring to start the actual program.
The next day, the Biodiversity kids got settled into the lab, where Noel talked to us about what we were going to be doing. Pretty much what we did for
the next few weeks was measuring the wing and body lengths of butterflies. We then entered the data into an excel spreadsheet. While this was not exactly
the electrifying epiphany-filled researching I had imagined, it was not mind-numbingly boring. The butterflies were not bad to look at, and we often had
talks or breaks in between, including an hour and a half lunch break! We had various research talks, ranging from ones about moths and butterflies and how
they were related to ones about the populations and sizes of mole crabs along California's coast. We also had lunch activities planned by Emily, which
involved touring Lake Lagunita (picture below) or playing with Frisbees on Meyer Green. When we were not participating in these activities, I ate lunch
with friends and talked a lot. We even found a picnic bench inside of a fountain, where we decided to eat lunch on top of (pic also below). Overall,
the days seemed to fly by and I was always surprised when it was time to wrap up.
However, we have not been limited to staying on the Stanford campus. Instead, the program leaders graciously took us on a field trip to New Brighton
State Park and the surrounding areas on June 30th. This was a great trip where we went along the sea cliffs of the beach and looked for fossils. Although
I had been here before, I had never noticed the fossils; yet looking back, I cannot believe that I was able to miss them. There were insane amounts of clam
and other fossils (pic below). Walking along the beach, we also saw lots of sea anemones and other intertidal animals such as limpets and mussels. We
were lucky enough to find a section of the spinal column of some large marine mammal (dolphin? fossil pic below). We then got to hear a little about the
local geology from Prof. Payne, who told us that the darker stone surrounding the skeleton was probably because mud caked around the carcass and “stuck” to
the bones even after the skeleton was moved elsewhere and fossilized. We then headed back into the cars the drove to the UC Santa Cruz marine biology station
and got to look at some great skeletons of a blue whale and gray whale. After pictures were taken, we went into the cars and headed back home, full of great
stories to tell our friends and family.
Overall, I have enjoyed my time in this program immensely and am very grateful for being able to participate in such a great opportunity. If you, o reader,
are a prospective or current applicant to this program and love biology, having a great time, and making friends, this program is for you.