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Emma Klemperer

Since writing my last blog post, my wishes for the program were fulfilled and more.

August 10, 2020

Since writing my last blog post, my wishes for the program were fulfilled and more. In it, I wrote that I hoped to better understand the importance of body size in the process of evolution and diversity and to be able to write code with RStudio more fluently and successfully. Since then, I learned how to create professional-looking plots in R, and found answers to questions we were asking about body size.

Throughout the process of working on our project, I have made leaps and bounds in R. I can now say that I know how to create plots with more than two axes, with hundreds of data points, and with trend lines to demonstrate general trends in the data. And while this obviously doesn’t mean I am ‘fluent’ in R, the abilities I now have are beyond what I even imagined I would learn in this program. If anything, my skills in this language are a tangible measurement of my gains from the SEYI program. And along the line of a tangible product of my work during this program, we also have a poster to represent our findings and work. With help from experienced researchers and students, our poster even looks professional. If AGU does happen this year, whether virtually or in-person, I will be excited to show off our work.

As I write this blog post now, we are wrapping up the program and preparing to virtually present our findings to friends, family, and other interested researchers. My group (Jackson, Jonathan, and myself) focused on comparing the body size of molluscs and atmospheric oxygen content during the Ordovician to understand their relationship. As we hoped, we found a strong relationship between oxygen and mollusc body size (negative), meaning that there was a definitive reason for mollusc body size. However, when we looked at the classes within Mollusca (gastropods, cephalopods, and bivalves), we found that the relationships were much weaker (weaker negative, and one positive). Despite finding some explanation for our hypotheses/questions, this also has raised more questions for us. We don’t know whether our findings represent causation or correlation; it is possible that another variable was affected by oxygen and then in turn affected mollusc body size. We now hope that others (as our program is essentially over) will pursue these lines of questioning to find answers. I look forward to seeing the long-term results of our work and efforts to make conclusions about mollusc body size in the Ordovician and, possibly, how oxygen played a role.

I am extremely excited to present at AGU later this year. I had a great time participating in this internship and I have learned a lot. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.

Despite these challenging times, I have found this program to be exciting and enlightening

July 10, 2020

Despite these challenging times, I have found this program to be exciting and enlightening, giving me the opportunity to participate in research I am interested in from a distance. In normal circumstances, I would have loved to both work on campus and go out on field trips, but I think that, given the situation, this program is beyond what I expected.

Initially, I was simply thrilled that I was able to learn about biodiversity from a Stanford educator, but once we began doing work ourselves with RStudio, I was even more delighted. I have never before had formal training in any form of coding. I have pursued some outside of school, but the way we were given explanations and practice problems helped me to learn so much in very little time. It still feels amazing when I can write a line of code and it works on the first try (though such an occurrence is probably less frequent than receiving an error message).

About the time that I am writing this blog post, we are beginning our projects. My group is focusing on the origination of molluscs in the Ordovician Period. We hope to compare oxygen levels, body size, and other factors to see how such organisms developed over time. I love the idea that we will be able to participate in a project that, in normal times, we would present at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) alongside many experienced and renowned Earth scientists from around the world. Nonetheless, it is an amazing opportunity to be able to see and work with the data we are using; being able to understand how organisms appeared and functioned millions of years ago will never lose its appeal.

As we continue with this internship, I hope to have a better grasp of how important body size is to the process of evolution and diversity and be able to write code with RStudio more fluently and successfully.