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Shannon Heh

Canoeing + Project Presentations + Final Thank You's!

posted August 11, 2017

Our final field trip to the San Francisco Bay was exciting. I had only gone canoeing once before, so being able to canoe with my friends (while getting my exercise for the summer) was a fun experience. We were first instructed to observe ~eight maps that showed the changes in the Bay Area due to urbanization, such as the disappearance of salt marshes that people are now trying to restore. Once we practiced using the paddle and put on our life vests, we were off! We canoed to a small island, where we began to collect water samples to test for pH, turbidity, and oxygen and nitrogen concentration. We filled a tube with water, put a pill-like tablet into the tube, and shook it. After five minutes, the sample would show different colors, and we compared the color to a chart that showed how acidic, turbid, and concentrated the water is. It was interesting that history, even all the way back to the Gold Rush era, has influenced sedimentation in the Bay. We then got to play with the mud, which was surprisingly soft and smelly (because of the sulfur). There were many different clam and oyster shells lying in the mud.

Once we were done playing with the mud, we canoed all the way back to MSI. On the way, our MSI staff pointed out the wildlife near us. For example, there was one bird that she said dives into the water to get its food. However, this black bird does not have the oily coating that most birds do, so it must come back to the surface to dry its wings off. There were also these orange flower-like plants that she told us are invasive to the island. At the end, we went to the MSI aquarium; my favorite marine animals were the little sharks, flounder, and crabs.

In front of the SF Bay!

We spent a majority of the last few weeks working on our project. The research project was a new and enlightening experience, because we created and presented our projects all on our own. There were some bumps near the end; for example, we had to completely change one figures, which disproved one of our previous conclusions about body size. However, that is all part of the process. Presenting our project was exciting, because we got to “show-off” our hard work and share our knowledge about the topic. I also enjoyed listening to everyone else’s projects, especially learning about new applications of Earth Science in rice production, electricity costs, sociology, etc. I am glad we were allowed to take our posters home, because I now have a valuable “souvenir” from the internship to hang up on my wall.

Two interns standing in front of a poster
Lauren and I, our poster!

I would finally like to thank a few special people who made SEYI a memorable experience:

  • Noel: for guiding the Biodiversity interns, answering all our questions, and incorporating activities that broadened my interest in Earth Science.
  • Jenny: for organizing the program, being enthusiastic and showing genuine interest in our projects, and encouraging us to be open and express our opinions.
  • Emily: for planning the Tuesday lunch activities, taking us to many of the highlights around Stanford, teaching us about Stanford, and answering our questions about college/graduate school.
Our last day together :(
Noel receiving his terrarium!


Camping in Pinnacles and the Project!

posted July 24, 2017

One of the main highlights of this internship was definitely our camping trip to Pinnacles National Park. Our first stop was actually the side of the highway, where we were, to my surprise, able to find many fossils buried in thousands of rocks. I never imagined that there would be artifacts from millions of years ago, just lying on the side of the road. Although the heat was overwhelming, it was very enjoyable to climb up the slopes and observe these fossils.

Hands holding shells
A few of the fossils we collected on the side of the highway.

At night, we set up a blue light and white sheet to catch the moths in Pinnacles. It was slightly disappointing at first, because no moths even approached the blue light. Suddenly, a gigantic moth (below) landed on our sheet, and we trapped it with a water bottle. Besides the fossil of the Atlas moth that Sandra brought to class, I had never seen such a large moth; its body was black with gray, transparent wings. I typically do not like getting too close to insects, but I became fascinated with this moth; this experience lessened my dislike and deepened my appreciation for moths and other insects. We also observed other forms of wildlife, such as flocks of quail, cicadas, and raccoons; I could hear the cicadas buzzing and the raccoons pitter-pattering near our heads all night.

The large moth we found at Pinnacles.

Our last activity was hiking; it was undoubtedly a difficult climb with the scorching weather and steep incline, but it was definitely worthwhile reaching the top. We were able to see the separation of the San Andreas Fault and various colorful crystals and rocks formed as a result of the separation. On a cooler day, I would definitely consider returning to Pinnacles and taking another hike.

We recently started our research project; my partner, Lauren, and I, our research question is: How does the (1) geographic range, (2) distribution range, and (3) body size affect the risk of extinction of butterfly? We selected this topic, because it has not been extensively studied before, and with our large data set of body size and open source databases like GBIF and the IUCN, we can conduct a recent and broad study on these factors. After finishing writing our proposal, we are now in the process of collecting data through GBIF and the IUCN. Hopefully, we will be able to complete our data collection soon and start the analysis of the correlations.

(As of July 24, 2017, Lauren and I have measured 3000 butterflies.)

My 1st Blog!

posted July 04, 2017

Before arriving at Stanford, I thought science research and this internship would primarily be independent work, and I felt pressured thinking that I would
have to learn about evolution and measure butterflies all by myself! Now I come to realize that, gratefully, much of the internship emphasizes the interaction
among interns as we learn about biodiversity. Since I started off camp without much knowledge on biodiversity and evolution, working in groups and partners provided
me with new insight on the scientific world.

Illustration of butterflies
The butterflies that Lauren and I liked the most

One of my favorite class activities was the lessons on insects and lepidoptera from Sandra, the graduate student. Her introduction to the fascinating behavior of insects like the leaf-cutter ants, spongillaflies, and telephone pole beetle furthered my appreciation for insects and entomologists. Through Sandra’s lectures,
I finally learned to distinguish the characteristics between moths and butterflies, and discovered why our data collection on butterflies is important to the researchers at Stanford.

I also enjoyed learning a new programming language R, although it was quite different from other programming languages such as C++, Java, and Python. Since the syntax and functions of R are more simplified and unfamiliar to me, I, at first, had difficulty understanding the code. After asking Noel for explanation and writing more code, I was able to understand how the functions are utilized to create histograms and other plots of data. Hopefully, I can practice using R more and even make use of the language in my research project.

In the following weeks, I hope to engage in more fun, educational class activities and discussions. I especially enjoyed creating the Geologic Time Scale, because it furthered my understanding of evolution and our fossil record. In addition to the Paleobiology and IUCN database, I hope we can explore more databases
that may also prove useful to our research. Through the first two weeks, I have already learned so much about what it means to be a scientist, and I am looking
forward to the various activities, field trips, and projects planned for us young explorers!

A small portion of the Geologic Time Scale that my group created

(As of July 3, 2017, Lauren and I have measured 1233 butterflies.)