Three smiling students with the ocean in the background and the student on the left is holding up a hemoglobin plushie.
A group photo of intern Mimi Chavez (left), Sam Walkes (middle), and Jacquie Rajerison (right)

Adventures at Bodega Marine Laboratory

I am an SRJC student transferring to UCSC for Marine Biology in fall of 2022. I was mentored by Sam Walkes and Jacquie Rajerison.

For my internship I was mentored by two amazing individuals. Sam Walkes, a third year PhD student, uses owl limpets to study ecological and evolutionary dynamics in rocky shores. And Jacquie Rajerison, a recent UC Davis graduate with a bachelors in marine science. Jacquie is currently working as a research assistant at the Bodega Marine Laboratory. Prior to this internship I had no real scientific experience, so I was incredibly eager to get myself deep into science. My internship involved working with multiple people on different projects.

From working with Sam, I learned that the owl limpet population had been expanding up the California coast in recent years. Owl limpets typically live in warmer waters in Southern California. Extreme events such as heat waves can cause species to expand their range. For example, the 2013-2016 heatwave called, “the Blob” caused owl limpets to expand their range up North. Years later the climate returned to normal but the population was still increasing. It's possible the owl limpets have evolved new traits in order to thrive in colder waters. To find out why, Sam is studying owl limpet growth rates across the California coast. In the lab I was able to use ImageJ, an image processor to measure the percent coverage of barnacle growth within a meter of an owl limpet. The data will determine whether or not mussel coverage, which differs between Southern and Northern California, affects the growth of owl limpets. I was also able to go tidepooling with Sam and collect data on owl limpet measurements.

This summer I also worked with a UC Davis undergraduate research fellow named Adri Penix. Adri is interested in owl limpet behavior and what effect other grazers have on their territory, since owl limpets live on the same rock their whole lives and are territorial. Adri, Sam, and I hammered small holes into tide pool rocks near owl limpets territories. The holes were filled with a drying putty called Z Spar so the owl limpet could be tagged and later found again.

My second mentor Jacquie is a research assistant to Sam and PhD candidate Emily Longman. Emily is studying what effects predatory snails with different feeding traits have on mussel and barnacle growth. I was able to take part in Emily’s research by helping Jacquie with her lab duties. I learned how to use a special microscope that hooks up to a computer. Using this tool, I took close-up photos of juvenile barnacles. Then I learned how to distinguish between four different species of barnacle, even when they were almost too tiny to see.

From this internship I gained a new perspective of what it means to be a scientist. There are so many types of work a scientist can do and directions a person's career can go. Whether it be going to grad school or becoming a research assistant, all of these options are valid and offer amazing experiences. I also feel I made a support system with my mentors that I feel comfortable reaching out to in the future.

Want to learn more about the SRJC-BML Internship Program?

Visit the SRJC-BML Internship Program Website

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