Five people posing and smiling in low tide mud flats behind oyster bags.
Celebratory post work group photo, at Tomasini Point.

Coastal California Dreaming: A Taste of Real Science


Nate Bossier is 23 years old, born and raised in Novato California. Recent graduate of Santa Rosa Junior College, Nate is transferring to Cal Poly Humboldt and majoring in Freshwater Fishery Biology.

Let me set the scene. It’s 5:30 am in the morning and I’m driving through thick fog blanketing the roads of West Marin. I’m heading to my first fieldwork outing, and thinking “man, I really signed up for this?”  This was the beginning of a truly eye opening and fulfilling internship with my mentor and UC Davis PhD student, Priya Shukla.

Her study involved investigating heatwave events and their effect on mass die off events caused by Ostreid herpesvirus (OsHV-1) in Pacific Oysters. The study involved comparing two sets of thermally conditioned oysters to try and withstand marine heatwaves and disease events more effectively. My work involved measuring the growth and mortality of those oysters, which were deployed over three different sites in Tomales Bay. This is why fieldwork was so early in the morning; in order to reach the sample bags during low tide. Every other week we would be out there a couple mornings, looking through the oyster bags and counting the amount of dead oysters. We also collected dying and surviving oysters for future analysis. This was my first ever taste of real fieldwork, as compared to labs in my previous biology classes. Getting knee deep and stuck in the bay mud was a blast, and Priya always had different and interesting volunteers coming out to help as well. Getting hands-on experience, as well as being exposed to people at different stages in their academic journey. This honestly reduced my anxiety of fitting into the science community, as for the first time I got to see how scientists are in fact regular people just like me, with a passion for the natural world around them.

Two people kneeling in low-tide mud flats over plastic sleds with nets and buckets.
Emptying the oyster bag for counting and sampling.


Priya also got me into the lab side of things. I got to dissect (or shuck, if you prefer) oyster samples collected from the field, in preparation for dehydration and future analysis. I also got lots of experience using ImageJ, a program for measuring small and difficult shapes. Though the less fun side of science, I found the lab work to be quite fulfilling, as well as a nice change of pace from being out in the mud. It showed me I do enjoy both sides of the scientific process.

Overall, I can say this internship has further solidified my goal of going into fisheries biology. Getting hands-on experience in the field and lab, as well as expanding my network and being exposed to so many like minded people is an opportunity I will cherish heading into the next stage of my academic journey. Shout out to Priya for making a truly memorable internship experience! Now off I go to Cal Poly Humboldt!

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