It’s been a wild ride! Nine weeks have come and gone, and the experience has been life changing! The last week was still just as exciting as the first week. Now, it’s time for the final recap of my time here.
Monday was all about finishing any potential data collection I can get. By Monday morning at 9am, the posters were finalized, and they were printed out that day. Having my hard work and care be synthesized onto one poster was amazing, and I was proud of it! So most of Monday was all about finishing any potential data collection - my final plankton tow. I enjoyed looking out into the bay one last time, watching the beautiful coastal Oregonian fog roll by. Luckily, I did not run into the sea lions again, although I will miss them. Again, I found little to no cyprids to speak of, but I still filled my time preparing for the big poster session.
Tuesday continued the pattern that Monday set up. I was rereading all the papers I have accumulated over the summer, so that I could be as informed and educated as possible for Wednesday’s poster session. I also looked back on the calculations I’d done this summer to determine if there was any weird patterns or mistakes in my study, or in similar studies conducted by other labs. The day ended with our last professional development session, which was about our next steps after this internship! It was a fitting final presentation – searching for more experience and jobs. That night, before some of the other REU students had to travel back home, we all went out to dinner together to celebrate our time here. We went to eat some Thai food, swap stories, and discuss our plans for after this REU.
Wednesday was the big day! The morning was spent pouring over the math again and preparing the cafeteria for the symposium. As the hour approached, I could feel my nerves rise and bubble, but with the friendly encouragement of Richard, Nicole, and Tiffany, I found that my nerves were fizzling away. I tacked my poster onto the board, I dressed in my best clothes, and I presented my poster to the broader scientific community for two hours. The time flew by quickly! Many kinds of people saw my work, ranging from professors, to graduate students, to tourists and a county commissioner! By the end of the day, I was exhausted but proud of what I have accomplished. With the internship ending, I want to bring my poster, and my work, home with me to display at my desk in the museum!
Thursday was all about wrapping up. I discussed with Richard my plans for taking this project further, and I started to clean up the lab and my work space. I took down my poster and mailed it to my new apartment, and I cleaned out the fridge of any remaining dead specimens.
Friday was the final day. The morning was spent quietly cleaning up the rest of my lab space and then the rest of the day was spent in a long debriefing session. After the session, and packing my bags, I set out to Richard’s home, enjoying one last potluck before I go home.
It has been an honor working at OIMB. This experience has taught me so much, and the challenges, successes, and failures allowed me to grow as a person. I learned how to live and work in a place that was completely foreign to me, and I learned how to make mistakes. I learned a lot about science as a career path, about animals who live on the Oregonian coast, and what scientists are really like outside of the lab. I hope this blog series helped you learn a bit too! I would like to thank Richard Emlet for mentoring me this summer, Nicole Nakata for encouraging me, Maya Watts for guiding me, and my fellow REU students for supporting me. It’s been great, but for now, this is Savanna signing off.
This week went by fast! Time is running out before the big presentation day, and the week was mostly spent attempting to collect the last bits of data I wanted and perfecting my poster.
Monday was the start of the poster-making process. I had my data, and I knew what it said, but it was time to arrange all these ideas into one complete poster. I was given a basic template from the program, and it was up to me to write, design, and create the look of the poster from scratch. It was a fun process! Creating and designing a beautiful poster from scratch puts me into a Zen frame of mind. Other than trying to create my poster, I wanted to conduct another experiment while I was there. I wanted to see if the activity rates of my two species, Balanus glandula and Balanus crenatus, differed significantly. So, I tried to conduct a plankton tow for the day to collect my cyprid. Unfortunately, the surface water in the marina where I take my tows had an oily sheenl – perhaps from a boat bilge. Not wanting to give up, Richard and I hopped on a small boat and drove out into the bay, to do a tow away from the spill. It was a fun time, and even though I still did not get any cyprids, I drove a boat for the first time! I may have not done my experiment, but I did end up with a wonderful poster draft and a new, thrilling experience.
Tuesday was more of the same, with a twist! Tuesday was my birthday! Everyone in the REU program was extremely kind, especially my lab partner Tiffany, who gave me little presents throughout the day to celebrate. It was my first birthday without my triplet sisters, and everyone’s well wishes made what could have been a hard birthday immensely special. As for work that day, I continued my plans of trying to collect cyprids and work on my poster. That day, I ran into a special guest. While conducting my normal plankton tows out on the dock, I ran into a gang of sea lions. Now, being from Florida, the only aquatic mammals I’m familiar with are manatees and dolphins. So, seeing these large and impressive pinnipeds was a shock. It was even more shocking when the biggest male started to bark and yell at me aggressively. I couldn’t get around him to board the moored boat where I do my plankton tow! I tried using other docks, but they were populated by busy fishermen. Luckily, after a while, the marina officials scared the sea lions away, but even then, I could not find my cyprids. I am stuck in an eternal game of “where’s Walter”. The rest of my day was spent getting informative feedback on my poster, taking notes on where to improve.
After a celebratory birthday, on Wednesday, it was time to focus and work on editing my poster, taking all the advice I was given during the professional development session and incorporating it into my poster. The process was long, and it took up most of the day. But, by the end of the day, I had a draft I was proud of. I also had some time to do a few plankton tows, but out of all the tows conducted thus far, I only found a single cyprid, a solitary Balanus crenatus. Sometimes the tides are just like that. Nature can be unpredictable, and if you don’t plan for it carefully, you’ll be left creature-less, like me. That is, perhaps, my most valuable lesson coming out of my REU experience.
Thursday was more of the same. I was given some helpful feedback from Richard, and I was finally starting to pull my research together. The poster was starting to look great! It looked clean, professional, and even beautiful. It is the cumulation of this summer’s hard work into one neat package. I’ve learned a lot, and all my observations and discoveries were on one page. The specific gravities between the two species studied were not significantly different. Swimming speeds do not correlate to the specific gravities, the sinking rates of the two species did not differ, and B. glandula appears to prefer the top third of a water column compared to B. crenatus.
Friday is where all my work on the poster wraps up. I make my final edits, try to conduct another tow, and make sure everything is presentable for the next Wednesday, where I will present my poster to the scientific community. I’m nervous, but ready to show all my hard work!
This past week has certainly been interesting. The time was spent finishing up the last of my experiments and then synthesizing all my data into a fun museum exhibit, and an impressive poster. Along the way I learned quite a bit. For instance, behavioral studies are hard, and any scientist who can create a behavioral study is genius. Additionally, I learned that there is a lot of thought that goes into creating a great exhibit that communicates ideas efficiently to an audience.
Monday was all about problem solving the last experiment I was trying out. My last experiment involved watching cyprids under different wavelengths, or color, of light to determine if these animals behaved differently under each color of light. As it turns out, behavioral studies are difficult! Animals are complex creatures, and even seemingly simple animals like barnacle cyprids can be influenced by different environmental cues. My colored light set up was identical to my white light experiments. I had a tall rectangular tank sit under an iridescent lamp. The major change, however, is the use of different filters to create different colors of light. I used blue, green, yellow, and red light to see if the behavior in B. glandula changed compared to white light. The original plan had me study color response in both B. glandula and B. crenatus, but the week’s tides did not bring enough B. crenatus to make any statistically viable observations. So, I stuck to B. glandula!
Tuesday came around. The idea was simple. I would “throw a party” for my B. glandula. I would let one cyprid into the tall tank and watched them swim in the column under colored light for a minute. After that minute, I would mark where the cyprids were, much like my original white light study. However, some logistical issues arrived. I wanted to compare how one cyprid reacted under each light cue, but once that same cyprid was exposed to the 5th color, that cyprid will become so fatigued. It would be hard to determine if the cyprid was reacting to the color, or to its own low energy reserves. To add to the troubles, It was becoming harder and harder to watch the cyprids under the colored light. I was going blind! Never the less, I decided to forgo that aspect of my study to focus on writing and discussing my previous findings.
Wednesday was quite the day! It was a day devoted to a different type of creativity. After a fascinating professional development session at the Charleston Marine Life Center, I set to work creating a temporary exhibit to display for the public on Thursday. I live for this type of job. I love talking to people about science, and any chance to help inspire the next generation of scientists is a chance I want to take. I spent the morning drafting and creating my exhibit, excitingly drawing pictures, writing guides, and practicing my speech. I wanted to challenge visitors to find my cyprids within the tank and think critically on why they are finding these specimens in specific tank locations. I also wanted to give a general look into the life cycles of barnacles and what makes cyprid larvae so cool!
Thursday was an exciting day dedicated to working at the museum, explaining my research to visitors. I spent all morning preparing the exhibit, making sure that there were no typos in my information cards, my cyprids were alive and active, and all my equipment was up and running. In between set up times and presenting, I would sneak back to the lab and work on starting my poster and creating graphs of the data I collected, but eventually, it was time to present my research. The three hours went by so quickly, and it was so nice to talk about my project to the public. I worked very hard on my experiment, and seeing the public become fascinated with my little larvae was very rewarding.
On Friday we took a tour around the University of Oregon campus. It was a lovely tour conducted by OIMB’s own Sutherland. She was an excellent guide and showed the university’s biology department. I was amazed at the university’s immense funding! I thought that my home institution, the University of Florida, was well funded, but this blew UF out of the water! After our tour of the facilities, we spent a few hours at the local natural history museum. It was a small museum, and it lacked a lot of invertebrate zoology exhibits, but the exhibits they did have on display were amazing! My favorite exhibit demonstrated coevolution by showing the evolution of wolves and horses over time. It was fascinating to see so many different types of canids.
There’s only a few more weeks left here at OIMB, and its crunch time. I’m excited to start perfecting my poster and bundle my experience into one final project. Onwards to week eight!