Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
Main content start

Shayna Kothari

And So Summer Ends

posted August 07, 2015

This summer has been, without a doubt, one of the most fulfilling summers of my life. I have learned so much and met so many amazing people through the History of Life internship. I’m incredibly sad that it’s over.

Three weeks ago, we went camping at Pinnacles National Park and fossil hunting. It turns out that geologists like to stop on the sides of random highways to find fossils. Who knew? We went to two sites, both with deep-sea sedimentary rock that is part of the Monterey Formation. At one site, we found mollusks and some other different shelled sea animals; at the other, we found crabs. One of the crab fossils I found was extremely well preserved.

A rock with a fossil in it!

This is where we searched for fossils.

We set up camp at Pinnacles, and soon after, many of us proceeded to go swim in the pool; it had been a hot day. Some other people, including my tentmates (Charin and Divya) went hiking to find condors instead. After swimming and dinner, almost everybody went on a short night hike that wasn’t really a hike, because we didn’t venture off the road for long. It was still a pretty cool experience, though. Many of us played games until 1:00 AM, when we finally realized that we needed to go to sleep. And there were raccoons everywhere. They can be quite stealthy.

Night hike!

The campsite.

One incredible thing about Pinnacles was how easily we could see the stars. Everybody stood for several minutes just watching them, transfixed by their beauty. There’s no light pollution down at Pinnacles, so we could see everything in its raw beauty. I saw thousands more stars than I ordinarily see, and it was probably the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

The next day, we went hiking. The scenery up at Pinnacles is amazing, as we were hiking right next to ancient lava flows. Megan pointed out many interesting rock types, including one known as tuff, which is formed from explosive eruptions. We also saw some really cool flora, including manzanita trees, which have smooth, red bark. We hiked up 2000 feet over the course of 5 miles (there and back) which is crazy high. Especially since I’m afraid of heights. (Let’s just say that going down was not an easy task.) It was a very rewarding experience, though, and I’d love to try it again.


Some tuff.

The view from only halfway up.

At the top! I swear there was a nice view behind me, but I was too afraid to go close to the edge.

Manzanita trees.

In which Noel dropped a water bottle and bravely dived into the foliage to retrieve it.

For the last few weeks at the internship, we worked frantically to complete our research projects. Noel helped us greatly with our code, which was awesome because… well… most of our project was based on code. Our project was on the correlation between the appearances and disappearances of characteristics in marine organisms and environmental factors. Some results were quite interesting, while others weren’t very surprising but have important implications on the real world. For example, we found that as carbon dioxide levels rise, genera diversity generally declines—especially within mollusks. We also found that oxygen has little to no correlation with the environment.

We had a potluck with much delicious food on Monday to mark the fact that the internship was ending. After that, I visited Cantor with Megan, Charin, Divya, Allison, Amy, and Hefan, which was really awesome.

Me and my poster!



Goodbye, Stanford.

Time Flies By...

posted July 16, 2015

I can’t believe that it’s already been four weeks since this internship started; it both seems like it’s been much longer and much shorter. I have gotten to know the other interns so well in the short amount of time that has passed (I guess spending seven hours a day, five days a week does that to people).

Last week, we went to Hopkins Marine Station (which was kind of funny, since I went to a Hopkins Junior High School) to see tidepools and learn about the research done there. It was only the second time I’ve ever been tidepooling, and last time was in sixth grade. The tide pools were really cool (although treacherous—ask all the people who helped me climb over rocks). There were mussels and snails and crabs everywhere, and we even found several abalone shells! We also saw lots of seals flopping around on the rocks. In addition, we took tours of a lot of labs and learned quite a bit about echinoderms, wave tunnels, and marine bacteria.

Shayna standng in front of Hopkins sign
Hopkins was awesome!
Tide pools are incredibly diverse!
Hands holding a purple sea urchin
Sea urchins are pretty awesome.
Seals sitting on rocks in the distance
Seals are adorable.


At Geocorner, we’ve started working on our research projects. Amy and I are working on correlations between ecological (ex. motility and tiers) and environmental (carbon dioxide levels, sea levels, etc.) in marine organisms, and what that means for origination and extinction. The project itself is quite tedious; we’re going to have to make around 300 graphs (although they’ll all be made in the same way), then find the most interesting ones and analyze them. Right now, however, we’re reading about the evolution of animals and how certain characteristics evolved; I’ve already learned so much about evolution. I have also found that the Biology Library is a magical place.

We’re going to have to use a statistical programming language called R to complete our projects; it’s quite different from any programming language I’ve used before (aka Java), since it’s not object-oriented. It’s taken a while to get a feel for it, but I like to think I’m slowly developing mad R skills. I certainly will have to, considering how reliant our project is on it.

We’ve also had lots of fun outside of the classroom. Earlier this week, Megan took us to see the cactus garden, which was really cool. Lunchtime bonding with the rest of the interns has been incredibly fun, too, and Jenny’s brought in some really cool speakers for the Wednesday meetings. Noel’s brought in some great speakers for us, too—one talked about how gophers make hills (pretty weird, huh?). The entire internship group has gotten hooked on a game called ‘’, and I’m not sure it’s a good thing. It’s strangely fun, though. Finally, next week, we get to go camping, and I’m pretty psyched.

I’ve learned so much from this internship so far, and I can’t wait to learn even more!

Cactus garden
The cactus garden wasn't too prickly.
Functional Anatomy of the Vertebrates book cover
Reading for research!

Too weeks, Two fun!

posted July 02, 2015

The past two and a half weeks have been incredible; I have learned so much about the field of paleobiology and what it entails. In the mornings, we generally have activities, which range from learning about fossils and rocks to using stratigraphy to date fossils. We’ve also discussed a variety of papers, including one on the sixth mass extinction.

As of now, our work mainly consists of data collection; we get chapters from long books on the properties of different microbes and log details in a spreadsheet. Although the work is quite tedious, it is (somewhat) interesting. My knowledge of chemistry has helped me quite a bit in finding things from context details. Connie and I often take turns logging data, because it can get a little dry at times.

We also went on a field trip to both New Brighton Beach and Pomponio Beach last Friday. It was really cool to find actual fossils; the beautiful scenery was an obvious plus. At Pomponio Beach, we also saw lots of sailor-by-the-seas (jellyfish molts) and sand crab molts (they were really tiny and really cute!). However, we also found a dead baby seal (not nearly as cute; it was mostly really, really sad).

Although it hasn’t been long, Geocorner has already become familiar to me, familiar in the way that only one thing can be: home. Everybody I’ve met is really incredible, and I can’t wait for the rest of the summer!