Mentor & Lab:Zea Premo; Beltran Lab

Positions: 1 intern

Tentative dates: June 26 – August 18

Project Location: Coastal Campus, UCSC

Project Background: The CAMINO student will have the opportunity to support an NSF-funded project exploring differences in foraging strategies and morphology among juveniles of a sexually dimorphic species, Northern elephant seals. Through stable isotope analysis of seal whiskers collected during the first two field seasons of the project, the student will learn how to interpret stable isotope data in the context of an ecological framework, and gain valuable sample preparation and laboratory skills. Possible projects could include investigating the chronological changes in diet through the foraging season, comparing sex and age classes, or comparing pre- and post-foraging season whiskers. The student must be comfortable working with biological samples.

Intern duties: The student will learn how to prepare and process whisker samples for stable isotope analysis via mass spec. Following established protocols, sections of whiskers will be selected and segmented. Segments will be solvent washed, and when dry, weighed and packed into tin cups. Samples will be analyzed in-house at the USCS Stable Isotope Lab on Main Campus. The student will learn how to perform quality checks on raw data and interpret results of stable isotope data. Depending on the selected project, the student will use the data to develop plots or models to assess diet, and will conduct a literature review on isotope analysis of fish in Northern elephant seal foraging grounds.

Intern qualifications: The student must be comfortable working with biological samples and hazardous chemicals with supervision. Prior experience with R or advanced Excel applications will be helpful. The laboratory work is repetitive, and an attention to detail coupled with maintaining an accurate and comprehensible laboratory notebook is required.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter? Volunteering with the laboratory is not necessary; however, if the student is interested in accompanying late season field work, that can be arranged. Otherwise, the student will be using samples already collected.