Meet Our Past Interns - 2019

  • Biodiversity and Conservation
  • Callahan, Heather ’21

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

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

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Rubenstein Group, Mpala Research Centre, Nanyuki, Kenya

    MENTOR(S)

    Daniel Rubenstein, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

    Certificate(s): Environmental Studies, Language and Culture

    I spent the summer in Laikipia County, Kenya, assisting in a study focused on livestock grazing practices. Raising and selling cattle is a major source of income for many Kenyans. During the biannual transition from the dry to the wet season, the animals often become ill and lose weight as their stomach microbiomes adjust to more nutritious food. This leads to profit loss for ranchers trying to sell these animals. Our team tested a silage treatment to prevent this period of transitional weight loss. Each week, I helped weigh the cows, create time budgets describing their behavior, and set up GPS trackers to determine how far different herds foraged for food. I also assisted with analysis of all data collected. Through this position, I learned how to conduct original research, which will be extremely valuable to me as I begin my senior independent work.

     

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  • Drossman, Joshua ’22

    Civil and Environmental Engineering
    PROJECT

    Deer Exclosure and Forest Restoration Study

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    The Watershed Institute - Pennington, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Steve Tuorto, Director of Science and Stewardship, The Watershed Institute; Allison Jackson, Stewardship Coordinator, The Watershed Institute

    My focus was a study intended to quantify the impact of overgrazing by New Jersey’s deer population, which has allowed invasive species to overtake native plants. I was responsible for remeasuring the heights of over 150 native tree saplings, roughly half of which were protected in a deer exclosure with the other half left unprotected. Maintenance for the exclosure included fence repair, plot restaking, removing invasive plants that may inhibit sapling growth, and diagramming the exclosure with GPS coordinates. My internship also included a role as a land steward and science intern. I was responsible for aiding the rehabilitation of floating wetlands, a rain garden restoration project, and a summer-long effort to remove large patches of invasive plants to make room for planting 300 native trees and shrubs. I now have a much more expansive knowledge of the native and invasive species of New Jersey. This internship enhanced my appreciation for evaluating ecosystem health, and for the environmental research that must take place to determine courses of action. I hope to be able to incorporate some aspect of this into my career as an engineer.

  • Egar, Alice ’21

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Hummingbird Color Vision, Plant-Pollinator Interactions, and Climate Change in the Rocky Mountains*

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Stoddard Lab, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University - Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Gothic, Colorado

    MENTOR(S)

    Mary Caswell Stoddard, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    Certificate(s): Language and Culture

    I studied broad-tailed hummingbird pollination behavior to determine how climate change alters plant-pollinator interactions over time,
    as well as how the birds’ perception of color influences their feeding behavior. I set camera traps at various flower species as part of a study to quantify hummingbird visitation frequency and how variations in the timing of flower bloom affect behavior. I used spectrophotometry and refractometry to collect data on flower color and nectar content at different stages in several plants’ flowering periods to identify possible visual cues that guide birds to feed. I also helped conduct an experiment in which I observed bird behavior at an array of flowers as nectar content was artificially manipulated. I learned all about hummingbird behavior, the science of plant-pollinator interactions, and how ecosystems can be altered when climate change creates mismatches in the timing of natural events. I gained amazing fieldwork experience and had the chance to participate in a thriving scientific community at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), which provided me with insight into graduate school and careers in ecology. I would love to return to RMBL to conduct more independent research!

    * This internship is connected to the PEI Climate and Energy Grand Challenges project, “Investigating the Effects of Climate Change on Pollinator-Plant Dynamics in the Rocky Mountains.”

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  • Jacobson , Dane ’22

    Computer Science
    PROJECT

    Devil’s Hole: Microbial Succession and Drivers of Overturn in Seasonally Hypoxic Waters

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) - St.George's, Bermuda

    MENTOR(S)

    Rachel Parsons, Research Specialist, BIOS

    Certificate(s): Music Performance

    My goal was to gain a greater understanding of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) in our oceans. OMZs are regions where dissolved oxygen is low or entirely depleted, which can lead to the deaths of many organisms, impact local aquaculture and threaten ocean health. I worked on the Devil’s Hole project collecting data on naturally occurring annual OMZ and documenting bacterial changes. I found that as the OMZ developed, different species of bacteria consumed nutrients in this order: oxygen, nitrates, sulfates and carbon dioxide. The peaks in various bacteria species followed this order as the different species consumed their preferred nutrients. My results spawned many questions and my project will be continued by other undergraduate students in the coming years. I learned how to design and carry out an independent research project, and a great deal about scientific protocols and general microbiology. I also learned about coral ecology, weather systems, fish ecosystems, and Bermuda’s history and wildlife. I hope to continue pursuing biological research at Princeton.

  • Johnson, Ian ’22

    Mathematics
    PROJECT

    Go to the Ant Thou Sluggard, Consider Her Ways Be Wise: Buffelgrass Seed Preferences, Predation and Dispersal in Kenya Home Range by Messor Harvester Ants

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Mpala Research Centre - Nanyuki, Kenya

    MENTOR(S)

    Dino Martins, Executive Director, Mpala Research Centre, Lecturer and Visiting Research Scholar, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University; Robert Plowes, Research Scientist, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas-Austin

    Certificate(s): European Cultural Studies, Humanistic Studies

    I studied the relationship between harvester ants and buffelgrass, a wheatlike grass native to Kenya that’s invasive in Arizona and southern Texas. My team wanted to determine if harvester ants suppress buffelgrass by eating its seeds, or if they help it spread by dispersing its seeds. I mapped the ants’ trail networks and measured traffic on different dates and times to better understand their foraging behavior. We took samples of seeds from along the trail networks, the environment, and the refuse piles the ants form outside their nests. We compared the composition of seeds from various plant species in our samples, but did not find enough correlation to answer our initial question. Our findings did show that harvester ants forage in fantastically complex, dynamic and unpredictable (yet, not random) ways. My work greatly improved my abilities to interpret data, observe wildlife, collect samples, and organize measurements. If I’m to be a scientist, field zoology is the way to go.

  • Kawalec, Joseph ’21

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Camouflage and Vigilance: The Secret Lives of Our Local Woodpeckers in an Increasingly Urbanized Environment

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Stoddard Lab, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University - Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Mary Caswell Stoddard, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Monica Carlson, Ph.D. candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    Certificate(s): Environmental Studies

    I worked on a project investigating two predator-avoidance strategies in woodpeckers, specifically camouflage and vigilance. Woodpeckers are considered ecosystem engineers because they excavate holes that are used as nesting and roosting sites by many wildlife species. Understanding the ecology of woodpeckers is therefore important to ecosystem conservation. We collected vigilance data by video-recording woodpeckers in the Charles H. Rogers Wildlife Refuge and Institute Woods. We will analyze these videos to quantify vigilance behaviors and correlate vigilance with tree-canopy cover, foraging height on the tree, and proximity to urbanization. We also collected camouflage data by taking photos of the bark of trees on which we saw woodpeckers. Our photos were taken with an ultraviolet-sensitive camera because hawks, the primary predator of woodpeckers, can see ultraviolet light. We will overlay images of dorsal woodpecker plumage onto the tree-bark images to measure how closely the two patterns and colors match under ultraviolet light. Overall, this internship helped me understand the care that goes into collecting data and has motivated me to pursue ecology research in graduate school.

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  • Kim-Brookes, Phia ’22

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Teaching Assistant for Conservation Clubs

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Rubenstein Group - Mpala Research Centre, Nanyuki, Kenya

    MENTOR(S)

    Daniel Rubenstein, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

    I taught at 15 schools in Laikipia County, Kenya, for the Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs. I went to a different school every day during and after instruction hours to teach students ranging in age from 8 years old to in their 20s. I often created the day’s lesson from scratch, and choosing the activities and games I could play with my students was fun. I developed creative ways to overcome language barriers, such as by drawing or acting out what I wanted to say, and I figured out how to engage a hesitant audience. I also improved my overall knowledge of conservation and wildlife so that I could better teach about these topics. As someone who values conservation, I found teaching others about the environment to be truly fulfilling. I will continue to teach about conservation for the rest of my life, most likely in more informal settings than what I experienced in Kenya, but surely I will never stop teaching now that I have begun.

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  • Kuziel, Luca ’21

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Monitoring the Ecological Restoration of Species and Their Interactions in Gorongosa National Park

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Pringle Lab, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University - Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

    MENTOR(S)

    Robert Pringle, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Matthew Hutchinson, Ph.D. candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    Certificate(s): Environmental Studies

    I investigated how the diets of different antelope species change as predators are reintroduced to Gorongosa National Park. To understand antelope diets, my project team collected dung samples to identify via DNA analysis the plants the animals had eaten. We conducted activity budgets to study how antelope partition their time between eating and watching for predators. We also measured the densities of mammals
    in different habitats and studied the effects of herbivory on pollination. In March, Cyclone Idai went through the park and destroyed many surrounding towns. My group helped other researchers collect flood sensors and camera traps, as well as measure the cyclone’s impact on fever trees. Being in the park with talented researchers taught me about the various forms fieldwork can take and helped me in asking and answering questions about the natural world. I also gained skills in using GPS collars to track animals. I plan on returning to Gorongosa for my senior thesis research, and I am inspired to pursue a career in conservation and restoration biology.

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  • Liang, Al ’21

    Computer Science
    PROJECT

    Using Biogeochemical Information to Better Understand Biogeography of Southern Ocean Fisheries

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Princeton University - Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Jorge Sarmiento, George J. Magee Professor of Geoscience and Geological Engineering, Emeritus, Professor of Geosciences, Emeritus; Lionel Arteaga, Associate Research Scholar, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences; Kisei Tanaka, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

    Certificate(s): Entrepreneurship

    I used Southern Ocean State Estimate biogeochemical data and machine learning methods to determine whether biogeochemical data is significant in modeling Antarctic krill distribution. I also investigated the environmental factors that are most critical in predicting krill distribution. I used the machine learning techniques of random forest and boosted regression trees and found that both methods reinforced my findings. During my research, I learned to code in R, a valuable skill for data analysis that I will certainly use in the future. I also created machine learning models and used them to make observations about big data. This internship really increased my interest in using machine learning methods to analyze data, something I didn’t have previous experience doing. I’m looking forward to continuing my research on this topic and seeing what else I can uncover.

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  • Malik, Rimsha ’21

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

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

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Rubenstein Group - Mpala Research Centre, Nanyuki, Kenya

    MENTOR(S)

    Daniel Rubenstein, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

    Certificate(s): Neuroscience

    I worked on an ongoing research project studying the effectiveness of silage (stored grass used as animal feed) in improving cattle gut microbiomes and preventing illness during the transition between the dry and wet seasons. My research group and I worked with privately held and communally owned cattle, collecting data on grazing behavior, weight, and their movement using GPS. Additionally, we examined the impact of cattle grazing on the presence of wildlife and the quality of the land by setting up camera traps and collecting data on the surrounding vegetation. Cows have a strong presence at Mpala and share the land with wildlife. Thus, it is important to understand how cattle can be raised sustainably to ensure that both local communities, wildlife and the environment thrive. Through this internship, I acquired valuable field research skills and improved my understanding of the interconnectedness of livestock, wildlife and people. I was struck by how something as small as cow-gut microbiology can affect the livelihoods of pastoralists.

     

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  • Ng, Sean-Wyn ’21

    Computer Science
    PROJECT

    The Automation of Fish-Stock Assessment

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) - St.George's, Bermuda

    MENTOR(S)

    Tim Noyes, Research Specialist, BIOS

    Certificate(s): Technology and Society

    I worked training computer models to automatically identify fish species in Baited Remote Underwater Video systems (BRUVs). Marine biodiversity is often estimated from underwater video footage, but the manual annotation of fish is significantly time consuming. Automating the annotation of BRUVs would drastically improve the efficiency of marine research. I manually annotated approximately 14,000 images from multiple BRUVs, targeting fish species that occurred the most frequently. The images were then fed into convolutional neural network (CNN) models, which are often used in machine learning for automatic image classification. CNNs have internal parameters that are adjusted based on information contained in the training set and these parameters are later used to identify objects in new images. During my internship, I gained practical coding experience and learned more about computer vision techniques, and I developed time-management skills by organizing a large-scale project. I also have a greater awareness of issues related to marine biodiversity and conversation.

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  • O'Donnell, Emma ’21

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Development of Three-Dimensional Models of Coral Reef

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Coral Reef Research Foundation (CRRF) - Koror, Palau

    MENTOR(S)

    Steve Lindfield, Research Scientist, CRRF

    I worked on developing a 3D model of a coral reef for the final grouper spawning-aggregation survey of a 10-year study. The model quantifies features of the reef, such as complexity, to provide insights into potential drivers for the species’ chosen aggregation areas. To build
    the model, I swam transects of the reef while taking photos every half-second with two GoPro cameras on a rig. I then stitched the photos together in the photogrammetric processing program Agisoft Metashape Pro to generate a preliminary 3D model of the area that could be refined manually. Through this project, I gained invaluable experience as I worked alongside visiting researchers on two five-day fieldwork sessions. Furthermore, I had the chance to learn valuable technical skills using Metashape and developing the model for analysis. I look forward to incorporating the skills that I learned into my senior thesis research next year, which I hope will be in marine biology.

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  • Rennie, Zoe ’21

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Monitoring the Ecological Restoration of Species and Their Interactions in Gorongosa National Park

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Pringle Lab, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University - Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

    MENTOR(S)

    Robert Pringle, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Matthew Hutchinson, Ph.D. candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    I primarily researched how the reintroduction of wild dogs to Gorongosa National Park has affected the behavior and diet of herbivore species, with a focus on reedbuck, warthog, waterbuck, impala and oribi. I performed vigilance surveys to record how often herbivores grazed or watched their surroundings. I also performed roadside counts of herbivores to understand how their populations are distributed in the floodplain and savanna, their two main habitats. Additionally, I collected fecal samples and prepared them to be processed in the lab.
    I helped count parasite eggs in fecal samples to get an additional measurement of herbivore health, and these samples will later be used to extrapolate herbivore diet. I learned so much about hands-on fieldwork and experimental design. Working alongside a Ph.D. candidate was a great source of insight and helped me think about what I’d like to pursue after I graduate. The training I received, my own self growth, and what I learned about collecting data in the field have definitively shaped the way I plan to move forward with my major.

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  • Reynolds, Hannah ’22

    Psychology
    Hannah Reynolds
    PROJECT

    Teaching Assistant for Conservation Clubs

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Rubenstein Group - Mpala Research Centre, Nanyuki, Kenya

    MENTOR(S)

    Daniel Rubenstein, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

    Certificate(s): Environmental Studies

    I interned as a teaching assistant for the Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs. Each week, my fellow interns and I went to 15 different schools to teach through experiential learning centered on hands-on experiences. In class, we played conservation-oriented games that we developed for a classroom setting based on American games such as Taboo, Hangman, Jeopardy and Pictionary. I helped design lessons specific to Kenyan ecosystems. I worked with each school to prepare for Community Conservation Day, a community-wide event where students presented posters, poems and plays to share what they learned about conservation with the public. During this internship, I learned strategies for overcoming language barriers, found ways to test the students’ learning while having fun, and gained leadership experience. As a result of this experience, I have gained an increased interest in behavioral ecology and conservation. I hope to pursue courses and independent work in psychology related to sustainable behavior and conservation.

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  • Wallace, Elizabeth ’20

    Geosciences
    PROJECT

    Fish Ecology from Otoliths (Ear Stones) Past and Present

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Sigman and Ward Labs, Department of Geosciences, Princeton University - Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Daniel Sigman, Dusenbury Professor of Geological and Geophysical Sciences, Professor of Geosciences; Bess Ward, William J. Sinclair Professor of Geosciences and the Princeton Environmental Institute; Jessica Lueders-Dumont, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Geosciences

    Certificate(s): Visual Arts

    I studied changes in the trophic level of four species of commercially important fish in the Gulf of Maine. Changes in trophic level indicate alterations in the health and structure of the ecosystem due to overfishing or changes in global climate. Nitrogen isotopes in the fish’s body provide a quantitative measurement as the ratio of heavy-to-light isotopes increases with trophic level. I measured the ratio of nitrogen isotopes in the fish’s otoliths, or ear stones, which grow throughout the fish’s life and can be preserved over long periods of time. I compared the trends in nitrogen isotopes of otolith samples from the past 40 years with the stomach contents of fish from a field-survey database. During this internship, I learned new laboratory and data-analysis skills, and I gained an understanding of how a scientific question can be explored through experiments and data analysis. This internship taught me skills that I will use for my senior thesis and gave me insight into a career in research.

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  • Climate Change and Environmental Science
  • Adams, Rebekah ’21

    Chemical and Biological Engineering
    PROJECT

    Predicting Environmental Conditions of the Past Using Soil Chemical Analysis

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Myneni Group, Department of Geosciences- Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Satish Myneni, Professor of Geosciences; Jianshu Duan, Ph.D. candidate, Geosciences; Danielle Schlesinger, Ph.D. candidate, Geosciences

    Certificate(s): Biophysics, Engineering Biology

    I studied paleosols, which are layers of soil formed in a past geological period. Paleosols could provide insight into the ancient climate, but their formation between basalt lava flows has made predicting the intensity of past climate variations inaccurate. A key example is the controversy over the role of climate variablity in the extinction of the dinosaurs. My internship focused on using chemical and mineralogical variations in red-clay samples from the Deccan Traps in India to determine whether they are basalt (volcanically) derived. I determined their chemical composition by creating pellet samples for an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and interpreted the resulting spectral data. I made extensive soil plots for a compartitive study of my new empirical data to previously published data on basalt weathering and paleosol formation. I had the opportunity to process paleosol maps that were created with a synchrotron X-ray microprobe, which takes samples at various points underground to analyze a soil’s elemental composition. Through this internship, I realized the power and versatility that comes with understanding soil chemistry when trying to understand climate. It has prompted me to look for more career or research opportunities in environmental research and sustainable innovation.

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  • Amatya, Amy ’21

    Geosciences