Research Projects by Subject

Note: Each research project will involve background reading for the interns provided by their mentors. Each research project will involve a final presentation by the interns.

Interns are expected to work collaboratively on the same project and/or data set. This may preclude rising seniors from submitting papers based on such projects to the Intel Science Talent Search competition.

Earth & Planetary Sciences

Code Research Project Descriptions
EPS-01 Title: Exploring Shallow Landslides and River Response to Winter Rainfall in the Santa Cruz Mountains
Primary mentor: Claire Masteller
Faculty advisor: Prof. Noah Finnegan
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: The winter of 2017 has been one of the wettest years on record, with the Santa Cruz Mountains being hammered with rain. As a result, numerous shallow landslides have occurred, many damaging major roadways, including Highway 17, Highway 9, and many others. Due to the impact that many of these slides have had on local roadways, the occurrence of these landslides have been documented by the Santa Cruz Public Works Department, as well as by many local citizens with camera phones. The SIP interns assigned to this project will compile a landslide inventory for the Santa Cruz Mountains and use this information to create landslide maps of the area. The interns will also examine the connectivity of these landslides to the San Lorenzo River utilizing suspended sediment measurements made by the Santa Cruz US Geological Survey. The integration of these datasets will allow for the quantification of the connectivity of hillslope sediment transport and subsequent river response.  

Tasks: The SIP interns will compile a landslide database through the integration of data from the Santa Cruz Public Works Department and crowd-sourced images with associated documentation. Using this database, the interns will create landslide maps of the Snata Cruz Mountains, focusing on the winter of 2017. Interns will also have the opportunity to compile landslide records from previous years to quantify the relation between precipitation rates and landslide activity. SIP interns will gain introductory coding experience through the analysis of suspended sediment data from the San Lorenzo River.

URL: https://geomorphology.sites.ucsc.edu/
Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Computer programming; statistical data analysis; field work
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON ON ON OFF REM ON ON ON ON ON


Code Research Project Descriptions
EPS-02 Title: Did Predators Cause Evolutionary Trends in Ammonite Shell Ornamentation?
Primary mentor: Prof. Matthew Clapham
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: Ammonites are an extinct group of animals, related to living squid or octopus but having a coiled shell. Some ammonite shells were smooth, but others were ornamented with ridges, bumps, or spines. Shell ornament is thought to help protect the ammonite against attacks by predators, and scientists have hypothesized that ammonites evolved heavily-ornamented shells when predators like fish became common around 100–150 million years ago. However, evolutionary trends in ammonite shell ornament are poorly known. This project will use image analysis to quantify the strength of ammonite shell ornament and will apply statistical analysis to test for evolutionary trends that may have been driven by pressure from evolving predators.

Tasks: SIP interns will use pre-existing code (written in the R programming language) to quantify the strength of shell ornament from published photographs of ammonites. The technique was initially developed, and is still widely used, in medical imaging procedures, but the mentor's research group has adapted it for use on ammonite photos. The SIP interns will receive instruction in data analysis, coding with the R programming language, and statistical assessment of evolutionary trends. Interns will analyze their data to test for long-term trends in shell ornament and whether they align with trends in predators. The interns and mentor will also read and discuss scientific papers to learn about the process of scientific inquiry and the practice of writing in scientific disciplines.

URL: https://people.ucsc.edu/~mclapham
Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Computer programming; statistical data analysis
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON


Code Research Project Descriptions
EPS-03 Title: Explore Long-term Drivers of Earth's Climate Evolution
Primary mentor: Dr. Tali Babila
Faculty advisor: Prof. Christina Ravelo
Other mentors: James Zachos
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: Deep-ocean sediment cores provide excellent archives for geoscientists to unravel Earth’s history. The mentor's lab group uses chemical signatures of fossil plankton shells extracted from sediment cores to reconstruct past ocean temperature, salt content, ice sheet extent and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Recently, UCSC scientists sailed on an International Ocean Discovery Program expedition in the tropical Pacific Ocean to obtain new material for paleoclimate research. This region was targeted because it contains the highest surface ocean temperatures and therefore is an important storage of global heat and moisture to the atmosphere. The Miocene epoch (23-5 million years) experienced dramatic warmth, major growth of the Antarctic ice sheet, expansion of widespread grasslands, massive volcanism, emergence of kelp forests, Asian Monsoon intensification and the first appearance of human ancestors. The mentors seek to understand the long-term drivers responsible for mediating climate over the enigmatic Miocene time interval.

Tasks: SIP interns will achieve an understanding of Earth History, geological processes, scientific method, and general oceanography. Laboratory work includes microscope time identifying and characterizing ocean plankton microfossils. Preparation of sediment samples for multiple geochemical (elemental and isotope) analyzes to be collected on specialized in-house instrumentation. Interns will gain technical laboratory skills commonly used in sedimentology, micropaleontology, and geochemistry. Interns will work closely with the project mentor to build their abilities in data interpretation and science communication. Interns will be part of dynamic paleoclimate research group and have the opportunity to engage in scientific discussions with fellow group members. 

URL: https://iodp.tamu.edu/scienceops/expeditions/pacific_warm_pool.html
Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Lab work
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON REM REM ON ON ON ON ON ON ON


Code Research Project Descriptions
EPS-04 Title: Zooid Size in Phylum Bryozoa as an Indicator of Climate Change
Primary mentor: Stephanie Bosch
Faculty advisor: Prof. Matthew Clapham
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: Bryozoans are a phylum of aquatic invertebrates that first appear in the fossil record in the Ordovician (~500mya), and continue to exist in marine and fresh waters today. Bryozoans are colonial organisms made up of a collection of individuals called zooids. Scientists have described and documented an inverse relationship between temperature and size in ectotherms, known as the 'temperature-size rule'. This can been seen in bryozoans, where, in general, colder temperatures produce larger zooids than warmer temperatures. One bryozoan colony therefore provides a record of water temperatures during its lifetime. This project will focus on intervals of known climate change in the geologic record and use zooid sizes from previously recorded individuals to quantify climate change and identify evolutionary trends in bryozoans.

Tasks: The SIP interns will work on measuring zooid size from a collection of photographs collected from previous studies. Interns will gain an understanding of different methods of image analysis. The interns will additionally apply statistical analyses to the data to look at evolutionary trends in Phylum Bryozoa. The SIP interns will gain an understadning of climate change through geologic time, as well as how organisms respond and adapt to such changes. 

URL: https://people.ucsc.edu/~mclapham/index.html
Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Computer programming; statistical data analysis
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON