Meet Our Past Interns - 2016

  • Biodiversity
  • Bechler, Scott ‘17

    Geosciences
    PROJECT

    Designing and Evaluating Fishery Improvement Interventions

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), San Francisco, CA

    ADVISER(S)

    Rod Fujita, Environmental Defense Fund

    The goal of my project this summer was to evaluate and compare the management performance of data-limited and data-rich fisheries. There were two overarching research questions: can fisheries with limited data on fish biomass, age, and catch still be managed successfully, and does having more data on a fishery correspond with more effective management and better fishery performance? While there is a great amount of literature on data-limited assessment techniques, there is little known about how they perform in the water, in fisheries where only basic catch data is available. This summer, I created a database of data-rich fisheries, which will be used to evaluate their management performance. I also helped design a strategy for surveying fishery experts from around the world, in order to better understand how data-limited fisheries are faring. Lastly, I wrote a report evaluating the performance of data-rich stock assessments, which will be compared with an evaluation of the surveys on data-limited stock assessments, once the results come in. During the summer, I learned how important fisheries are and the danger they are in, but also the potential for their improvement. I will likely be pursuing a position at EDF in the future.

  • Buoncore, Courtney ‘18

    Anthropology
    PROJECT

    Community Assembly after Ecosystem Collapse in a National Park in Mozambique

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

    ADVISER(S)

    Robert Pringle, Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    This summer, I conducted research in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. The park is at the forefront of an ambitious restoration project, designed to restore the ecological diversity and the political stability of the area following its collapse at the hands of civil conflict. It was the ideal place to study the nuanced relationship between society and nature, and the difficulties of conservation in such a dynamic and volatile system. The three graduate students I worked with offered me a much-needed insight into the intricacies of field ecology. Our research – examining fire and flood regimes, analyzing the dietary niches of ungulates, and performing exclusion experiments with waterbuck and floodplain vegetation – provided hands-on experience that has led me to think more deeply and concretely about conservation. My experiences in Mozambique have solidified my decision to turn to the field of wildlife conservation.

  • Darling, Walker ‘18

    Geosciences
    PROJECT

    Impact of the Invasive Big-Headed Ant on Social and Solitary Bees in a Dryland Savannah Ecosystem

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Mpala Research Centre, Kenya

    ADVISER(S)

    Dino Martins, Mpala Research Centre

    This summer, I interned at the Mpala Research Centre in the Laikipia District of Kenya. I studied the interactions between an invasive ant species known as the Big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala), and pollinators on the surfaces of flowers. This ant species is known to be very aggressive. It often attacks other ant species, leading to steep declines in diversity. In order to examine whether this aggressive behavior affected other species besides ants, I observed pollinator visitation on flowers that were frequented by both pollinators and the Big-headed ants. The goal of this project was to see if the ants were causing a decrease in the visitation rates. If true, this would influence how well the flowers reproduce and could potentially lower the abundance of seeds produced. Through the project, I was able to experience research in the field firsthand, gain an understanding of how small changes in visitation rates can change the diversity of the flora in an area, and get an idea of what life is like for an evolutionary and ecological biologist. This internship really helped me gain a new perspective on research outside of the geosciences.

  • Eyster, Artemis ‘19

    PROJECT

    Teaching Assistant for Conservation Clubs

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Mpala Research Centre, Kenya

    ADVISER(S)

    Daniel Rubenstein, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    During my time in Kenya, I taught at 12 different conservation clubs in the areas surrounding Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia County. I designed lesson plans that emphasized experiential learning to teach about resource conservation and ecosystem functioning. The clubs were created to foster an appreciation of the environment and an awareness of conservation issues among the youths who will become the region’s future livestock herders. Every day of the week, I taught at a different school, often adapting my lessons to the habitat of the schoolyard where I was teaching. In mid-July, I also helped to organize and run the annual community conservation day, when all the schools came together to share a presentation and display. My role in Kenya was to teach about noticing and valuing the local environment, but the incredible wildlife and diverse landscapes I encountered every day also taught me a deeper appreciation of the natural world.

    SEE PRESENTATION
  • Facon, Thomas ‘18

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Impact of Grazing Regimes on Rangeland Quality, Wildlife Use, and Livestock Health

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Mpala Research Centre, Kenya

    ADVISER(S)

    Daniel Rubenstein, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    This summer, I interned with Professor Daniel Rubenstein, conducting research on livestock grazing on the land surrounding the Mpala Research Centre in Nanyuki, Kenya. From fecal DNA analysis and GPS mapping data of animal movements, the goal of the project was to have a holistic account of both livestock and wildlife grazing. By attaching programmed cameras and GPS mapping units to the livestock, I analysed visual grazing evidence from the cameras and was able to map their movement across the savannah. I also performed vegetation transects along their tracks in order to garner some idea of what vegetation types they encountered on a daily basis. Finally, from analyzing what they actually ate, using fecal DNA analysis, we pieced together a more complete picture of livestock grazing habbits. I gained invaluable skills in many different areas ranging from communication to technology, and I was really able to immerse myself in the world of field research. I am passionate about farming and ecology, and hope to continue to conduct livestock grazing research for my senior thesis.

    SEE PRESENTATION
  • Getraer, Alec ‘19

    PROJECT

    Community Assembly after Ecosystem Collapse in a National Park in Mozambique

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

    ADVISER(S)

    Robert Pringle, Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    This summer, I assisted the Pringle Lab in their ongoing field research at the E.O. Wilson Lab in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. Gorongosa National Park is currently in the midst of an ambitious restoration and conservation project, aimed at revitalizing local communities and returning the park to its former glory, following its near ecological collapse durring the recent civil war. The Pringle Lab is focusing on studies that further our understanding of community ecology within African savannas, including specific phenomena relating to the restoration of Gorongosa. Alongside three graduate students, I investigated the impacts of fire and termite-driven heterogeneity on savanna vegetation through vegetation surveys, and collected and subsampled ungulate feces to determine dietary niches and study seed dispersal. I also examined the impact of waterbuck abundance on plants and animals in a critical wetland ecosystem. In addition to gaining experience conducting field research and learning an immense amount about African ecosystems, I also witnessed firsthand many of the issues that impact modern conservation and humanitarian efforts in developing countries. My experience this summer has cemented my decision to study ecology and evolutionary biology and my desire to pursue conservation-minded field research of my own.

    SEE PRESENTATION
  • Greenfield, Michelle ‘18

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Dolphins Plus Research Internship

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Dolphins Plus Inc., Key Largo, FL

    ADVISER(S)

    Kelley Winship, Dolphins Plus Inc.

    This summer, I worked as a veterinary and research intern studying Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions. My responsibilities included preparing medications, creating excel spreadsheets for research projects, and processing samples before sending them to external labs for further analysis. In addition, I ran all of the in-house blood work. I also observed and assisted with a few surgeries and even a necropsy of a stranded wild dolphin. As I look back on my experience, I leave with a greater understanding of how connected the different aspects of the marine mammal field are to one another. Veterinarians rely on trainers to build relationships with their animals in order to get samples. Trainers rely on the veterinarians to keep the animals healthy. Researchers rely on both teams to help bring new insights about these animals to the scientific community. Coming into this internship, I was uncertain whether I wanted to pursue a research career in marine science or attend veterinary school. Now I realize there are ways to incorporate both into a career.

    SEE PRESENTATION
  • Iqbal, Azwad ‘19

    PROJECT

    The Role of Large Mammalian Herbivores in African Savannas

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Mpala Research Centre, Kenya

    ADVISER(S)

    Robert Pringle, Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    This summer, I interned at the Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia County, Kenya where I served as a research assistant to a graduate student in Professor Pringle’s lab. The research I helped conduct focused on induced plant defenses in a thorny plant species of the genus Barleria. We were interested in how these species’ defense investment (in the form of thorn production) responded to herbivory. I helped conduct several surveys and experiments that measured plant biomass, relative fitness, and other factors in order to gain insight into this ecological relationship. In particular, we were focused on how proximity to tree cover affected thorn production and relative fitness. My primary focus was data collection/recording, as we conducted several large scale demographic surveys that spanned several experimentally treated and control plots, numbering over 500 unique plants. Through this internship, I was able to get firsthand experience in large-scale fieldwork and data acquisition, while also being able to engage with researchers and academics from a variety of fields. This cemmented my intention to declare as an ecology and evolutionary biology major, and pursue a career in research.

    SEE PRESENTATION
  • Jones, Jacqueline ‘18

    Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
    PROJECT

    Plants’ Talk

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Caylor Ecohydrology Lab, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

    ADVISER(S)

    Kelly Caylor, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

    The goal of our project was to determine whether inoculating plants’ roots with fungi could improve their ability to defend themselves against insect attack. If so, this method could eliminate the need for GMOs and therefore limit harmful mutations in insect populations. As the more technical intern, I was in charge of building the mathematical model for our data, namely photosynthesis rates, and compiling a code to process our 500 data files. This experience both helped me hone my skills as a coder and allowed me to explore field research, an area of science I rarely encounter as a mechanical engineer. I will not be studying plants for my independent work, but the computer science I learned and worked with this summer will be incredibly helpful in the data processing I intend to do in my senior year, and I am grateful for this learning experience.

    SEE PRESENTATION
  • Leahy, Catharine ‘18

    PROJECT

    Fish Ecology from Ear Bones (Otoliths) Past and Present

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Ward Group, Geosciences Department, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

    ADVISER(S)

    Bess Ward, Professor, Geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute

    Over the course of the summer, I created a compilation of stable isotope data from over 150 papers studying a variety of aquatic species, including invertebrates, teleost fish, and zooplankton. This database will allow for comparison of species’ stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur, over time, environment, and location, and can be used as a tool for analyzing human impact on marine, estuarine, and other ecosystems. In addition to the database project, I worked on a time series (from 1984 to 2014) of the nitrogen isotopic signatures present in calcium carbonate structures in the inner ears of winter flounder and butterfish. I also performed some fish dissections at the beginning of the summer. This internship offered incredible insight into the complexity of aquatic ecosystems and provided opportunity to improve my skills both in the lab and using statistical software like R. As a result of this experience, I hope to continue studying the impact humanity has on the environment.

  • O’Malley, Katie ‘17

    Civil and Environmental Engineering
    PROJECT

    A Sea-Change in Seedlings? Community Shifts in Regenerating Dry Forest

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Área Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica

    ADVISER(S)

    David Wilcove, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Public Affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute

    The work that I did this summer aimed to uncover the determining factors behind tropical dry forest regeneration. I assisted a graduate student in the field tagging, measuring, and identifying saplings in different plots in the forest. Additionally, I reviewed camera footage of fauna in these plots and completed soil testing. This internship helped me gain insight into the realm of research, and fieldwork in particular. I improved my Spanish and knowledge of forest succession and the intricacies of dry forest dynamics. I am thankful for this internship for potentially jump-starting me on a senior thesis idea and helping me figure out if research and fieldwork is something I wish to pursue in the future.

  • Ogilby, Henry ‘17

    Geosciences
    PROJECT

    Teaching Assistant for Conservation Clubs

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Mpala Research Centre, Kenya

    ADVISER(S)

    Daniel Rubenstein, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    This summer, I focused on practical conservation education and experiential learning at 12 regional schools in Laikipia County, Kenya. As an intern with the Northern Kenyan Conservation Clubs (NKCC), I helped develop and execute daily lesson plans at Kenyan primary and secondary schools, encouraging students to think critically about environmental issues in the world around them, and moving beyond the memorization-heavy Kenyan education system. As a geosciences major, I particularly enjoyed creating and teaching lessons on hydrology and the water cycle. This experience, working deep in Maasai territory, helped me become a more flexible problem solver and has given me invaluable global perspective. Working alongside Kenyan educators and researchers has also greatly improved my communication skills, and I feel better prepared to pursue my goal of traveling and teaching abroad in the future.

    SEE PRESENTATION
  • Osaka, Shannon ‘17

    PROJECT

    Small-Scale Fisheries Research and Training Internship

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), San Francisco, CA

    ADVISER(S)

    Sarah Poon, Environmental Defense Fund

    This summer, I interned for the Oceans Team at the San Francisco office of the Environmental Defense Fund, where I focused on small-scale sustainable fisheries reform in Belize and the Philippines. As a member of the Fishery Solutions Center, I developed case studies on how fishery reforms were implemented in small communities in these developing countries. My case study on adaptive management in Belize showed how data-limited assessments and harvest control rules could be implemented on the ground in a real-life scenario. My second case study on Ayoke Island in the Philippines showed how community consultation and decision making contributed to the design of a secure fishery rights management system. This experience gave me the opportunity to work with sustainability experts in multiple fields and confirmed my desire to work in the environmental nonprofit sector in the future.

  • Reisinger, Lily ‘18

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Zebra Parasites Where Two Zebra Species Coexist

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Mpala Research Centre, Kenya

    ADVISER(S)

    Daniel Rubenstein, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    This summer, I performed research on both plains (Equus quagga) and the endangered Grevy’s (Equus grevyi) zebras at Mpala Research Centre in Laikipia, Kenya. Strongyles, intestinal parasites transmitted through the fecal-oral route, were the main focus of this research. These nematodes pose a health risk to equids contingent on the severity of the overall parasite burden. This burden was anticipated to vary based on the differences in social structures between the two species, abilities to range from water sources, reproduction statuses, and across environmental conditions including rainfall gradients, soil types, and vegetation quality. While working in the field, I used the McMaster technique to analyze parasite burdens. Working with Princeton faculty as well as researchers and students from across the country, I was able to get a taste of life as a field ecologist and prepare for my junior independent work this year.

    SEE PRESENTATION
  • Reynolds, Alana ‘18

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Plants’ Talk

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Caylor Ecohydrology Lab,, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

    ADVISER(S)

    Kelly Caylor, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

    This summer, I participated in research exploring mycorrhizal fungi’s potential role in improving the sustainability of agricultural practices through plant communication networks. The project revolved around interesting and relatively new studies of crop plants’ increased yield, pest-resistance, photosynthetic rates, and nutrient uptake when exposed to reintroduced fungal networks otherwise absent in heavily plowed and nutrient depleted crop fields. During this project, I was able to work both in a controlled lab setting on campus and in the nearby field site. My co-interns and I were deeply involved in every step of the research process from the running of initial trials all the way to data analysis. This internship helped boost my general awareness, passion for, and comfort with the processes and challenges that are part of research in the biological sciences, and I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity.

    SEE PRESENTATION
  • Schmidt, Valeria ‘19