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Samuel Zaroff

Finishing up at Stanford

posted August 06, 2014

Overall, the History of Life Program has been an absolute blast. The last part has been the highlight in my opinion. We transitioned from data collection to working on specific projects in small groups. All of our hard work compiling a valid data set was finally paying off as we had a solid data backbone to support our research projects.

My partner Chris and I explored an evolutionary principle called Allen's Rule. This principle states that organisms living in cold environments will have a lower surface area to volume ratio and be shorter and squatter. In accordance with the same principle organisms living in warm environments will have a higher surface area to volume ratio and be taller and thinner. For our project, we tested whether or not this rule applies to ostracods.

In the creation and presentation of the poster I have learned so much. I have learned how to write loops in R as well as write scientifically in the abstract. Presenting our work was extremely rewarding today. All of our hard work in collecting data and preparing the project finally paid off and it was great to present our findings to other scientists. It was not only a great public speaking experience but also a great moment for me as a scientist that I will cherish forever. Thank you History of Life!

Start of Research Projects

posted July 18, 2014

Geo Corner has become even more enjoyable for me as my partner, Chris, and I have started our final project. Our project involves the shape of ostracods over geologic history, specifically surface area to volume ratio and Allen's Rule. Allen's Rule contends that in colder environments, animals will have a lower surface area to volume ratio in order to have less surface area from which to expel heat. According to the same rule, the opposite will occur in warm climates where the animals will have much more surface area in order to expel more heat in relation to their volume. Although the rule is tailored specifically to mammals, my partner Chris and I hope to find patterns in ostracod shape. Doing this project has already taught me so much about programming and preparing a scientific report. We look forward to presenting our findings at the American Geophysical Union conference in December in San Francisco.

We also went on an overnight in Pinnacles National Park from Monday to Tuesday. We went on a beautiful hike and had a valiant battle with raccoons during the night. The next day we drove to an area near the Salinas Valley to find fossils. We explored various outcrops along the highway and found bivalves, gastropods, and crabs. It was my first paleontological field experience and it was awesome being able to to chip at a rock and get a snapshot of geologic history. Back at Stanford we organized, classified, and added the fossils to the Stanford collection. These past weeks have been a blast and I look forward to many more!

Getting Started

posted June 27, 2014

Over these past two weeks at the Stanford History of Life program, I have truly found a home away from home. Each day I arrive at Geocorner knowing I am part of a diverse and motivated group of scientists. We have already learned so much already. From learning geospatial tools to collecting ostracod data to making our first steps in “R” programming, it has been a blast.

As a team, we are working to create a large fossil record of ostracod body sizes to make inferences about the history of life over geologic history. Despite the fact that ostracods are typically around one millimeter in length, they tell a lot about body size evolution over geologic history because of their abundant fossils, small size, and existence from the beginnings of multicellular life to the present day.

Although we are still in the data collection phase, I am already beginning to notice some important patterns in our data. For instance, my partner Chris Jackson and I have noticed that ostracods from the Silurian Period are sometimes ten times larger than ostracods from other periods. I am having a blast at Stanford so far and I look forward to the rest of the summer!