Hello! My name is Savanna Cabrera, and this is my first blog entry for my summer at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology’s research experience for undergraduates program. Here at the OIMB, I hope to learn more about the day-to-day life and work that a marine biologist, or zoologist, does while conducting my own independent research project. Before I start to describe my first exciting week here at OIMB, let me introduce myself properly.
I am an upcoming fourth-year zoology Major from the University of Florida who is experiencing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest for the first time. I am in love with zoology as a topic, with some of my favorite animals being arthropods, wolves, lions, and tardigrades! In fact, sometimes in my free time, when I am not playing videogames or writing novels, I help raise orphaned, abandoned, and abused wolf pups!
This summer, however, is dedicated to invertebrate organisms, particularly arthropods. I am fascinated by their anatomy, evolution, and development. Because I was so interested in arthropods (and other sister taxa, that is, relatives of the arthropods) I decided to apply to the OIMB’s summer research program out of a desire to learn more about the fascinating, yet cryptic world of marine arthropods.
The man patiently mentoring me through this program is Dr. Richard Emlet, a professor and researcher here at the marine station. He has graciously offered to mentor me and teach me methods that will enable me to become a better researcher, scientist, and student. I hope that during this program, he can train me to a point where I become a more confident and competent scientist, who has the ability and the fortitude to continue higher education.
As of right now, Dr. Emlet and I have the idea of studying the function of an appendage found on a certain stage of barnacle larvae, specifically the stage called the cyprid larva. Near the rear of the animal is a pair of biramous, or forked, appendages called the furcal rami. The furcal rami have been described anatomically by many scientists, but I found that there is little to no data on the function of this appendage. Is it a paddle? A rudder? A feather duster? All three? I want to spend my summer trying to get closer to this answer, and Dr. Emlet assisted me this week in moving closer to this goal. He taught me how to perform a plankton tow, how to culture algae to feed specimens, how to use microscope photography and videography equipment, and how to properly read and analyze scientific papers. I especially enjoyed my time using the video equipment. It reminded me of when I was a child, using my mom’s camcorder to create stop-motion animation, but in this case, I am attempting to answer a question, rather than being a nuisance to my mother.
This first week has already been such a growing experience. I am full of anxiety and concerns about my performance during this program, but with the patient guidance of Dr. Emlet, our grad student coordinator Nicole, and our education program coordinator Maya, I have faith that my summer here at OIMB will be the learning experience of a lifetime!