STEP Undergraduate Research – Ocean Reef Soundscape

What?

This summer I was a Marine Physical Lab intern at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in La Jolla, CA. This program lasted for 10 weeks and culminated in an end-of-the-summer research presentation where I presented my research project to other members of my lab and other program participants. Within the Marine Physical Lab I was a part of the Marine Bioacoustics Lab under the direction of the principle investigator, Dr. Ana Širović, and one of her doctoral candidates, Katherine Cameron. My research project was to listen to and log calls collected via hydrophone off the southwest coast of the Little Cayman Island in order to learn the soundscape and localize fish calls, identify what type of call is made by what kind of fish, in order to lay the groundwork for further research in this area. The primary target of the project I worked on was to assess if there are acoustical triggers for Nassau Grouper, Epinephelus striatus, larvae to help them identify the locations of their primary habitat, coral reefs, versus the open ocean. This internship also provided lectures by factuality members in the Marine Physical Lab as well as tours of facilities, the Scripps’ Machine Shop, and an audio and 3D imagining research center on UCSD’s main campus. Also due to my position as an intern, I was allowed to attend several symposiums and tours of research vessels that occurred on Scripps campus and in San Diego while I was there. I was also given the opportunity to go out on the ocean and collect whale poop for a different doctoral student’s research. I also got to explore San Diego and do a lot of other fun things such as learn how to surf (surfboard provided by the lab), snorkel around La Jolla Cove with harbor seals, and play my bass at an art gallery opening.

So What?

This experience helped me discover and explore a possible career path. I am pursuing a dual degree in Earth System Sciences and Music Education and have been searching for a good way to combine my interests. Marine acoustics is a good combination of the two disciplines as it allows me to combine my interest in oceanography with a study of the music of the ocean. This internship also allowed me to perform undistracted research and see if I enjoyed just doing research. This opportunity helped me understand that playing the bass is also important to me, and that I should make sure I continue to play, no matter what my profession ends up being. All of the symposiums, talks, and tours I was able to go on helped expand my knowledge of the field of marine acoustics, especially marine mammal acoustics, internal waves, the Keeling Curve, and many other topics and gave me a good idea of what a career in the profession would be like.

Now What?

As I am trying to decide whether I want to become a research scientist or a teacher, this gave me a good look into what it would be like to be a research scientist. It also gave me an in-depth look at what it would be like to live and work by the ocean. This research experience helped drive me to join another lab, Dr. Derek Sawyer’s Basin Research lab group, in addition to Dr. Anne Carey’s research group, in order to continue research in the field of marine acoustics.

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STEP Undergraduate Research

What?

For my Step experience I chose to get involved in undergraduate research with the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology. Specifically, I worked with Dr. Roman Lanno and his graduate student Steven Nagel on a project that investigated the effect of mobile technology on student achievement in the biology classroom. Mobile technology has become an integral part of both the university and K-12 classroom. However, there is very little empirical research on whether this technology actually helps students achieve learning goals. For this project we focused on the Apple iPad and sought to quantitatively assess the effect of the iPads when used as digital laboratory notebooks. The experiment involved data collection from two EEOB classes. A control group used traditional pen and paper notebooks, while the treatment group used iPads to record information. The student products were then analyzed by counting the number of words, pictures, annotations, and sketches for a specific laboratory exercise. This led to a quantitative measurement of the amount of data collected by each student. The student’s summative assessment scores were also recorded and compared with the amount of raw data they collected with either the iPad or the traditional notebook. These summative assessment scores were in the form of quiz or exam questions which specifically related to the laboratory activity. This allowed us to see whether students collected more information with the iPads, and if they did, whether it lead to higher summative assessment scores. The ultimate goal of this project is to determine if the iPads are worth the cost of implementing them into the classroom. While students may enjoy using them, they may or may not actually be helping them achieve in the classroom.

 

So What? 

This experience has been vital in the improvement of of both my professional and academic skills. I have become more familiar with the world of research and all that the profession entails. From the outside looking in, research seems exciting and fast-paced, but in reality I’ve found it to be very methodical and time-consuming. Research takes a great deal of patience and perseverance, as much of the work can be mundane and repetitive. However, these steps are necessary in trying to answer scientific inquiries and to contribute to the scientific community. During the experience, I had the opportunity to work with new statistics programs as well as improve my coding skills. I also greatly improved my professional communication skills in the correspondence I had with the PI, co-PI, as well as graduate students. Their guidance and help was vital in leading me through the project. I especially enjoyed working with them and want to thank them for all the time they put in to make this project a success. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience undergraduate research through the STEP fellowship. This project has pushed me to become a better student, communicator, time-manager, and critical thinker. I am happy with the work I have done through this project and hope to continue with research in the future.

 

 Now What?

My ultimate professional goal is to become a physician. As a physician, I must fully understand the scientific process and the steps needed to successfully investigate scientific inquiries. I want to contribute not only through the treatment of patients, but also through medical research that advances the effectiveness of modern medicine. It is important to keep up with the latest advances in medicine in order to provide the most complete and modern care available. I feel that linking research and patient care is critical in becoming  a successful doctor. By understanding how to navigate the scientific literature as well as determine the most relevant findings, I feel I can provide the highest quality care to patients. Furthermore, working with patients takes a great deal of interpersonal communications skills, skills that I believe I have improved 10 fold through this experience. This STEP experience has allowed me to get my feet wet in the world of research, but it is hopefully just the beginning as I continue to strive to reach my ultimate goal.