Body Composition Analysis of Marine Mammals

Stephanie Adamczak – Costa Lab

Positions: 1-2 interns

Tentative dates: Dates are flexible. The most hands-on work will likely take place between June and September 2021, but the student is welcome to start sooner if they would like to complete their project before the end of the summer.

Project location: Remote, but the Coastal Science Campus may be the location of this work if the student does not have access to a PC that can run Windows OS.

Project description: Body composition is defined as the ratio of lean mass to blubber mass. Body composition is an important determinant of the health and condition of marine mammal species, as it outlines the energy stores available for physiological processes. My project aims to understand different body composition thresholds for marine mammal species that allow for successful reproduction (pregnancy and lactation). I have CT scans of harbor porpoises that will be incorporated into a 3D model in Blender to determine body composition, as well as data from stranding records to examine body composition across marine mammal species. Depending on the intern’s level of comfort with coding (in both R and python) and 3D modeling, they can take on either the former or latter task.

Intern duties: Depending on the project selected by the intern, they will either assist in extracting blubber thickness measurements from CT scans to then incorporate into a 3D harbor porpoise model to determine body composition or complete some initial data organization and analyses on stranding data across marine mammal species. Regardless of the task I will be available to assist the student with the intricacies of each task.

Intern qualifications: For the first task, the candidate should be comfortable coding in either R or python, no prior knowledge of Blender is necessary. For the second task, the candidate should have some basic knowledge of how to use R (e.g. reading files into R, manipulating dataframes), however, I will be available to help troubleshoot and provide feedback.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter?
Volunteering during the Spring quarter is not necessary, but preliminary discussions between myself and the intern would be very useful, particularly if the student needs to be trained in coding and 3D modeling.

UC Santa Cruz Land Acknowledgement

The land from which we base our work is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.