A warm toned sunset shot of rocky coastline with people visible on the beach

An Undergraduate's Guide to Bodega Marine Laboratory

An Interview with Sophie Pritchard, 2022-23 Bodega Marine Laboratory Peer Advisor, and UC Davis Coastal and Marine Science Major, Class of 2023

*All images in the article provided by Sophie.

What is your favorite thing about BML?

Two people laying on their stomaches, hanging over a pier as they look down into the water.

I think my favorite thing was being surrounded by people who have the same passions as me, and the same interests and the same love for nature. I think one nice thing about having people that surround you that are interested in the same thing is that they have a lot of the same hobbies, it's really easy to make conversation and find common ground. It really feels like a community very early on because of that. I mean, you get there and you have one conversation, it’s like, “Oh, you're kind of just like me”. And it's really nice. Everyone's a little different, and they all have their own niches, but the common goal is the same.

What are some ways that undergraduate students can experience the lab? 

So there are a few different ways in which undergraduates can experience the lab:

The one that most undergrads know about is the classes that are offered there during summer sessions one and two, and hopefully, starting soon, also in the fall. So those classes, they're very hands-on, and they get you in the lab. Everything you're doing is in and surrounding the lab and the reserve, which is really, really cool.

Another way you can get involved is through different internships and different laboratory lab opportunities. While I was there, I got the opportunity to work in Brian Gaylord's lab with one of his Ph.D. students. And so I got to help her with her research for one summer session, separately from the summer session courses. 

The last way that I know of is just the different fellowships that are there. So like the Kendra Chan Scholarship that’s awarded every year, I have a couple of friends that are doing that this year, and recipients get put up in housing and get to do kind of more independent research there by themselves.

Are there any particular people at BML that have had a big impact on you and your experiences there?

A person in an orange Bodega Marine Lab life vest, viewed from behind as they stand on a boat.

Yes, actually, there are quite a few. It's really nice because you would think a professional laboratory would be intimidating, but instead, everyone's really helpful. So I've met a bunch of people there who have been formative. But I would say Eric Sanford has been just a great professor. He makes you excited about what you learned. And I've had the pleasure of taking two different classes with him, which has been exciting. And then Brian Gaylord, whom I met last spring while taking his physical oceanography class, and then working again in his lab with another influential person, which was Ashley Smart, who was a Ph.D. student that I worked with both summer sessions. She helped me with multiple experiments, which was really cool, and kind of introduced me to the world of ocean acidification experiments and research in that realm. It's one thing to hear about it, and then it's totally another thing to actually conduct an experiment and know how everything kind of works.

And then there are my peers. I actually hadn't met really many Marine and Coastal Science majors at all, before studying at BML, and the ones that I did know were a year older than me, so our classes weren't aligning very closely. And BML brought me a few of my closest friends that I met at UC Davis, who are also Marine and Coastal Science majors that I’m taking a ton of classes with this year. And I don't think I would have met them had I not taken classes at BML.

How time intensive is it to take classes at BML?

Several people hiking a narrow trial on a coastal prairie.

In the Summer Session One classes, because some are paired into a nine-unit block, I found that I was a lot more of a full-time student. Which was very cool for me. It made me feel like a real professional scientist. Whereas Summer Session Two is kind of like choose your own journey kind of thing. I had friends who were just taking one class and would be at BML just once or twice a week, and they'd have much more free time.

What do you do at BML when you have free time?

Bodega Bay is kind of small and remote, and a lot of students worry there won’t be much to do around there, but if you're outdoorsy, interested in nature, or anything like that, it's such a great spot to be. You have tide pooling, you can go rent paddleboards and kayaks, you can go beach all the time, and there are amazing hikes around, and you don't really need a car to be able to get around and have a really good time.

Want to learn more? UC Davis Undergraduate students who want to know more about BML can reach out to the Peer Advisor during the academic year.

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