Internship: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in the Benthic Ecology Laboratory, Summer 2014
While I may love Ohio State, my heart is on the coast. While I grew up in Cincinnati, family vacations and trips to the Newport Aquarium resulted in a passion for marine life. I have carried this passion with me since when I was first able to say the word “water”. As a result, I have firm career goals that involve marine research. Although Ohio State doesn’t offer a marine biology major, I have been able to get involved in cutting-edge aquatic research, getting my feet wet in science since my freshman year. While I am thankful for my education in Columbus, I am especially grateful for an internship I participated in. In the summer of 2014, I interned for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in the Benthic Ecology Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Richard Osman and Dean Janiak.
My project investigated how infaunal invertebrate communities vary by habitat type in the Rhode River, a sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay. I was in charge of creating a biodiversity sampling protocol of soft-sediment communities for a global Smithsonian-funded research initiative called MarineGEO. I applied a habitat-based sampling design, randomly sampling habitats based on proportions. Dean and I performed a “bioblitz” style approach, taking 153 samples over the course of 3 days. Over the rest of the summer, we sorted all 153 samples and I identified more than 18,000 individuals to species level, encompassing roughly 1/3 of the samples. After identifying a subse
t of the samples, I used PRIMER, SigmaPlot, and Excel to statistically analyze differences in community composition.
This internship allowed me to develop laboratory skills such as microscopy, taxonomic identification, and sample preservation/processing. Even though most of my time (45 hours a week) was spent looking under a microscope, I was oddly comforted and happy with this tediousness. As a result, this experience confirmed my love for research and marine science. The project also increased my proficiency in the use of various statistical analysis software and GIS programs (Google Earth). Overall, my internship at SERC gave me an opportunity to see a research project through from start to finish, allowing me to present at conferences and hopefully publish my research. My work for the project is ongoing—I am currently working on writing/publishing. Stay tuned for more information on my summer research!