History of Life Internship Program

February 2015 Intern Newsletter

I am working with Jenny Saltzman and Jon Payne in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences to develop the History of Life Internship program at Stanford University. The internship program focuses on data collection and analysis with a smaller classroom component. The purpose is to get students actively engaged in the process of science rather than simply teaching them content. Our first four summers, 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016, were very successful, with a total of 33 research projects submitted for presentations at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The interns collect body-size data from a combination of literature sources in order to test hypotheses that may explain temporal or spatial trends in their data. While the interns contribute to a larger data collection effort that's taking place in the Payne Paleobiology Lab, interns also work in pairs to interrogate the data they collect. Research questions that interns have pursued included the documentation of general patterns such as Cope's Rule and Bergman's Rule within clades, time intervals or environments. They also sought to explain their data in terms of driving factors such as atmospheric oxygen concentration, paleotemperatures and global biodiversity.

The History of Life Internship program runs for eight weeks, and interns participate in internship activities for approximately 30 hours each week. These activities include data collection, group discussions on research projects, formal classroom work, field trips to geologic outcrops and local museums, presentations by professional geologists and college admissions officers and social events. The History of Life Interns work on their internship projects four and a half days a week, reserving a half day each week for other activities such as presentations, field trips and social events. These activities provide an opportunity for the History of Life interns to get to know and interact with the other high school interns from the General Earth Sciences Internship program, thus broadening the interns' social network and exposure to other disciplines within the Earth sciences.

Overall Goals of the History of Life Internship program

I have three main goals for the History of Life Internship program that if achieved will enrich the lives of the interns, diversity the scientific workforce and promote scientific literacy.
  1. To cultivate an interest in science beyond the internship program
    1. increase engagement and confidence in future science courses
    2. increase motivation to pursue a STEM degree at an undergraduate institution
  2. To increase scientific literacy among participants
    1. understand through scientific research that science is a way of understanding the natural world
    2. gain a more comprehensive understanding of biology and geology
    3. develop proficiency in oral and written science communication
  3. To cultivate cultural, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity within the STEM fields generally and the Earth sciences in particular


2016 History of Life Internship

Read about the interns' experiences in their Blogs.

2016 interns outside of GeoCorner, our summer home on Stanford's campus. Back row (L to R): Aditya, Ben, Benjamin, Anthony, Will, Alexander. Front row (L to R): Kelvin, Grace, Iris, Naomi, Izzy, Jackie, Margot, Charin, Sai, Enrique.
Photo Credit: Anthony Ngo

The 2016 interns collected body size for living (and a few fossil) nematodes, or round worms. In total they made more than 10,000 individual measurements from more than 9,000 species! Interns didn't just collect data. Once again we made several field trips. We saw the Pliocene shell beds and mammal fossils in the sea cliffs New Brighton Beach State Park. For the third summer, we made our overnight field trip to Pinnacles National Park. On our drive to the Park we stopped near Greenfield, CA in the Salinas Valley where we collected Miocene fossils of clams, brachiopods, and crabs from the Monterey Formation! At the National Park, we took a geological hike through the volcanic landscape of the park as well as view evidence of the San Andreas Fault.

Instead of going to tide pools, this summer we chartered a boat from the Marine Science Institute to explore the marine biology of San Francisco Bay. Interns got the chance to collect organisms from a plankton tow, a botton trawl for fish, and a sample of mud from the bottom of the bay.

History of Life Intern posters at the 2016 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union

Read about intern research projects and view the AGU Posters.

All interns will present the results of their research projects at the 2016 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Below is a list of the Poster titles.

Enrique, Aditya & Angelo: Dinosaurs Vs. Mammals: The comparison of species longevity and size evolution in fossilized dinosaurs vs. fossilized mammals.
Margot & Sai: The Effect of Different Oceanic Abiotic Factors on Bacterial Body and Genome Sizes.
Naomi & Charin: Post-Extinction Recovery of Marine Life Modes.
Catalina & Amy: The Influence of Oxygen Percentage, Carbon Dioxide Percentage, and Sea Level on the Mean Size and Diversity of Marine Animals during the Cambrian-Neogene Transition.
Alexander & Anthony: Relation of Body Size on Ecological Modes.
Grace & Iris: Influence of Feeding and Body Mass on IUCN Extinction Threat of Extant Marine and Terrestrial Mammals.
Will & Kelvin: Origins of Nematode Parasitism in the Families Strongyloididae, Rhabditidae, Plectidae and Diplogasteridae.
Ben & Benjamin: Relationship Between Metabolic Rate and Sea Depth in Bivalves and Gastropods. Izzy & Jackie: The effects on biovolume and number of genera for marine fossils in different aquatic environments and rock types.

2015 History of Life Internship

Read about the interns' experiences in their Blogs.

2015 interns at the Muscone Center in San Francisco after presenting their posters at AGU. Back row (L to R): Alex, Sid, Fabiola, Frank, Weber, and Brian (General Program intern in Paleobiology). Front row (L to R): Kim, Connie, Lauren, Joanne (General Program intern), Juliette, Charin, Hefan, Shayna, and Divya.

The 2015 interns collected cell size, genome size and environmental growth tolerances from Rosenberg's (ed.) The Prokaryotes. In total they made more than 5,700 individual measurements from more than 3,900 species! Interns didn't just collect data. We made several field trips. Once again the interns visited New Brighton Beach State Park to look at Pliocene-aged mollusk and whale fossils of the Purisima Formation, explored tide pools an got lab tours at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, CA. For the second year in a row, we made an overnight field trip to Pinnacles National Park. On our drive to the Park we stopped near Greenfield, CA in the Salinas Valley where we collected Miocene fossils of clams, brachiopods, and crabs from the Monterey Formation! At the National Park, we took a geological hike through the volcanic landscape of the park as well as view evidence of the San Andreas Fault.

History of Life Intern posters at the 2015 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union

Read about intern research projects and view the AGU Posters.

All interns presented the results of their research projects at the 2015 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Below is a list of the Poster titles.

Hrithik & Will: Oxygen no longer plays a major role in Body Size Evolution.
Sid & Hefan: Observing Evolutionary Entropy in Relation to Body Size Over Time.
Shayna & Amy: The Prevalence of Specific Ecologies in Marine Organisms with Relation to Environmental Factors.
Lauren & Kim: Analyzing the Differences Between Pathogenic and Nonpathogenic Prokaryote Species.
Charin & Juiiette: Mass Extinctions’ Selectivity on the Diversity of Marine Modes of Life.
Divya & Fabiola: The Influence of pH on Prokaryotic Cell Size and Temperature.
Edgar & Cindy: Correlation Between Ecospace and Metabolic Rate of Marine Organisms Through Geologic Time.
Frank & Weber: The Effect of Abiotic Factors on Marine Animal Body Size. Allison & Connie: The effect of size and ecology on extinction susceptibility.

2014 History of Life Internship

Read about the interns' experiences in their Blogs.

2014 interns at Pinnacles National Park in central California. Back row (L to R): Nick (Stanford undergrad), Sid, Aditya, Daniel, Sam, Sean. Middle-back row (L to R): Chris, Lauren, Juliette, Max, Rufhiline, Jennifer. Middle-front row (L to R): Nicole, Tram, Melody, Mayra. Front row (L to R): Caitlin (Stanford grad student), Meghan (high school teacher), Divya, Jackelyn, Noel, Lesly Ann.

The 2014 interns collected body size data on Ostracods from the Ellis and Messina Catalogue of Ostracoda. In total they made more than 20,000 individual linear measurements from more than 8,000 species! Interns didn't just collect data. We made several field trips. Like last year, we went to New Brighton Beach State Park to look at Pliocene-aged mollusk and whale fossils of the Purisima Formation, explored tide pools at Bean Hollow/Pebble Beach State Beach, and visited the fossil collections at the University California Museum of Paleontology. This year, though, we also took a overnight field trip to Pinnacles National Park. At the National Park, we took a geological hike where we could see regional influence of the San Andreas Fault on the landscape as well as the spetacular volcanic geology of the Park. On the second day, Dr. Lisa White of the UCMP took us to some outcrops of the Monterey Formation in the Salinas Valley where we found Miocene fossils of clams, brachiopods and crabs!

History of Life Intern posters at the 2014 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union

Read about intern research projects and view the AGU Posters.

All interns presented the results of their research projects at the 2014 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Below is a list of the Poster titles.

Chris & Sam: Surface Area to Volume Ratio over Temperature and Time for Ostracods.
Divya: Comparison of Genus and Species-level Compilations of Metabolic Rate through Time.
Jackelyn & Jennifer: Testing for Bergmann's Rule in the Evolution of Ostracods.
Lesly Ann, Lauren & Juliette: Body Size Change in Relation to Location and Time.
Max & Sean: Size Evolution and Stochastic Models: Explaining Ostracod Size through Probabilistic Distributions.
Nicole & Melody: The Influence of Oxygen, Temperature, and Salinity on Ostracod Body Size in the Gulf of California and the Pacific Coast of North America.
Rufhiline & Tram: Ostracod Body Size: Locality in Accordance with Cope's and Bergmann's Rules.
Sid & Aditya: Body Size Preference of Marine Animals in Relation to Extinction Selectivity.

2013 History of Life Internship

Read about the interns' experiences in their Blogs.

Stanford News Article

2013 interns exploring tide pools at Bean Hollow/Pebble Beach State Beach near Pescadero, California. Back row (L to R): Sahej, Cathy, Edgar, Daniel, Andrew, Aditya. Middle row (L to R): Alondra, Mohammad, Sai, Long, Adyota, Amogh, Purnima. Front row (L to R): Rufhiline, Mayra, Vaishali, Catherina, Trisha. (Claudia couldn't make the field trip because of a BART strike.)

The 2013 interns collected body size data on Crinoids from Parts S and T of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology and ostracods from the Ellis and Messina Catalogue of Ostracoda. In total they made more than 25,000 individual linear measurements from more than 12,000 species! Interns didn't just collect data. We made several field trips to to study Pliocene fossils, including whale bones, at New Brighton Beach State Park; explore tide pools at Bean Hollow/Pebble Beach State Beach; tour the collections at the University California Museum of Paleontology; observe damage caused by movement along the Hayward Fault to the UC Berkeley Memorial Football Stadium; study the modern sedimentary deposits laid down by San Francisquito Creek, which separates Menlo Park from Palo Alto; and learn about the science of art preservation and the use of natural geological materials in art at the Cantor Arts Center.

History of Life Intern posters at the 2013 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union

Read about intern research projects and view the AGU Posters.

All interns but one research group presented the results of their projects at the 2015 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Below is a list of the Poster titles.

Catherina, Purnima and Vaishali: Ostracod body size trends do not follow either Bergmann's rule or Cope's rule during periods of constant temperature increase.
Alondra, Cathy and Mayra: Effects of Mass Extinctions on Crinoids Body Size.
Amogh, Daniel and Aditya: Ostracod Body Size as a Variable of Biomass.
Edgar, Sai and Adyota: Studying the Body Sizes of Echinoidea during the Mesozoic Era.
Long and Rufhiline: Blastoid Body Size - Changes from the Carboniferous to the End-Permian.
Andrew and Sahej: Comparing the Effects of Environmental Factors on Echinoderm Body Size.
Trisha: Effect of environmental variables on body size evolution of crinoids between periods of mass extinctions.

For more information and application procedures for the History of Life Internship and General Earth Sciences Internship programs please visit the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences high school internship webpage.

NOTE: the internship programs are non-residential and for local, Bay Area students only. No housing is provided.


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