Liam O’Connor, 2020, Geosciences

Americans go to the Bahamas to enjoy its blue water, white-sand beaches and tropical climate. Few realize the treasure trove of scientific information beneath their feet. My internship focused on gathering data around Andros Island. For two weeks, I camped on a deserted island with only two other people. We took water and sediment samples at various gridpoints. I was responsible for recording meteorological and oceanic-chemistry data. Sharks frequently swam near our boat and large land crabs scattered through the sand. At the beginning of the third week, we moved to a mangrove swamp on Andros Island’s western edge where I helped a graduate student fly a drone to capture aerial imagery of stream networks as part of his dissertation. We then waded through mud that was knee-deep to measure the depth of those streams. When these data are coupled, he will be able to calculate the depths of channels based on the brightness of their blue color. For the final five weeks, I analyzed sediment samples in a lab at Princeton. By analyzing the spatial distribution of sediment-grain sizes and the oceanic conditions under which they formed, geologists will be able to better understand Earth’s past climates. This internship gave me insight into one of the planet’s most fascinating natural processes. It has inspired me to conduct my own research as an undergraduate and pursue a degree in graduate school.