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A little closer to home – ZEN in Long Island Sound

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College of William and Mary undergraduate Ally Farnan

College of William and Mary undergraduate Ally Farnan

by Ally Farnan (College of William and Mary undergraduate, ZENtern)

Even though Long Island is not a conventionally exotic location for a girl from New Jersey to spend the summer, it is starting out to be quite an adventure.

I arrived on site less than two weeks ago and I already feel like a part of the family here in the Peterson lab. I have spent the past week prepping for the ZEN experiments in the lab. Though a crucial step in the process of running experiments and conducting research, spending a week making aluminum packets, labeling, and weighing tins is not exactly thrilling. It is, however, a necessary part of the process, and is giving me some great practice for the eventual post-processing, sorting, and identification of field samples yet to come. I’m still figuring out where everything in the lab is located, but am getting some excellent help from the other undergraduate volunteers working the lab.

Ally is spending this summer working with ZEN partners in Long Island

Ally is spending this summer working with ZEN partners in Long Island

Luckily, I get to start running the actual experiments on Monday, which will also be the first time that I get to see the seagrass bed that we will be working in. Since I have been so busy in the lab, I haven’t had the opportunity to get into my wetsuit and see the site. The area that we are located in is beautiful, so I expect that the study site will also be wonderful!

I’m living a short drive from the lab with two graduate students, which gives me an interesting perspective on how different science research is from the typical 9-5 business job. My housemates, Rebecca and Sam, are excellent hosts and it’s so much fun to hear about the different kinds of research that they do. It should be really exciting to delve further into the experimental stages of ZEN so I can gain some hands-on experience myself.

The lab here is nearby, just off the water. The weather has been great most days, so I’ve been able to explore the area by jogging around town and by the beach. I hope to see some more of the sights around where I am staying. All of my new friends in the lab have given me some great ideas for how to spend my free time during the upcoming weekends - I can’t wait to discover what makes Long Island so special.

Preparing for ZEN fieldwork in Long Island

Preparing for ZEN fieldwork in Long Island

It is surprisingly chilly here, so I haven’t been brave enough to go swimming just yet since my toes freeze every time I stick them in the water. But, the sun is constantly shining, making for some beautiful drives around town with my windows down. I can’t wait to continue my adventures here by getting some fieldwork experience. I’ve already packed up my wetsuit so I don’t freeze in the cold water!

I’m so lucky to have a bunch of help in the lab, not only to settle me into a new space and help me to learn more about seagrass ecosystems, but also to advise me on some cold weather gear for our fieldwork in the next few weeks! I’m sure my future blog posts will be filled with some exciting fieldwork stories and hopefully I’ll still have a little free time to explore the area and tell you more about those experiences as well!

A close look at a seagrass creature – caprellids

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Students in the UC Davis ZEN class sort mesograzers - small invertebrates that live in seagrass beds

Students in the UC Davis ZEN class sort specimens of mesograzers – small invertebrates that live in seagrass beds

by Elena Huynh (undergraduate in the UC Davis ZEN class)

My first look under the dissecting microscope at a caprellid amphipod was alarming, to say the least. Enormous Claw-like mouthparts and red eyes stared straight back at me and I jumped back in my seat. Lucky for me, no one was there to observe my visceral reaction to this strange looking animal. After taking a moment, I knew that I would need to get comfortable looking at these odd creatures since we would be performing lots of species identifications during the course of the ZEN class at UCD, so I gave it another look under the scope. Despite the permanent menacing stare, this caprellid was not so scary, albeit a bit bizarre. I noticed a deadly looking spike behind its head and paused before learning that this protuberance is a defining characteristic of this caprellid species—Caprella californica!

Caprellids on eelgrass

Caprellid amphipods clinging onto eelgrass

After observing this caprellid’s scythe-like claws, I wondered what they were used for. As it turns out, caprellids are pretty clingy. They use their claws (gnathopods) and their legs (pereopods) to hang onto seagrass leaves and algae as they either graze the epiphytes that grow on top of the leaves or filter particles out of the water. Some caprellids can actually help seagrasses grow by cleaning the seagrass leaves and increasing their light exposure, increasing their growth. I guess caprellids would make good housekeepers, since they’re constantly cleaning off dirty surfaces.

Out in the field, I had the opportunity to watch caprellids swim. I wondered how these stick figures managed to get around. Through close observation, I noticed that they do a lot of crawling – which makes sense because they don’t appear to have pronounced flippers or large paddles. When they are not clinging to a surface or crawling they get around by moving like a wave. They curl up their bodies then push their feet and head back at the same time, over and over. It is pretty surprising to see what they manage to do with a body plan I’d consider adverse to swimming.

After doing a little research, I found out that some caprellids have hairs on their antennae – called swimming setae – that help them get around (Caine 1979). Although some can swim, they don’t swim very well nor do they swim for very long. If they’re living in beds of seagrass, all they would really need to be able to do is to hop to get from leaf to leaf. Learning more about what caprellids do for a living has helped me appreciate them, and they just might now be my favorite inhabitants of seagrass beds!

For more information, check out: Caine E.A. Functions of Swimming Setae within Caprellid Amphipods (Crustacea). 1979. Biological Bulletin 156:169-178.

“Bok” from Croatia!

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College of William and Mary undergraduate Austin

College of William and Mary undergraduate Austin Ruhf

by Austin Ruhf (College of William and Mary undergraduate, ZENtern)

Bok, or hello, from Croatia! I’m one of the ZENterns from the College of William and Mary and am spending my summer with classmate Dave Godschalk assisting with the ZEN research in beautiful Zadar, Croatia. I have only been at my host site for a week, but so far Croatia has been a welcoming and easy going paradise. Despite a comical amount of initial bureaucracy (it seemed like we needed the equivalent of a social security registration to gain internet access), the locals have been more than accommodating towards my ignorant American self. My host supervisor at the University of Zadar, Dr. Claudia Kruschel, has been fantastic to work with. She seems to never grow tired and goes out of her way to make sure that all of our work is a group effort. She even lent me her daughter’s guitar so I wouldn’t get musical withdrawal during my stay abroad!

The ZEN team in Croatia prepares for fieldwork

The ZEN team in Croatia prepares for fieldwork

Dave and Austin prepare experimental materials in the laboratory

Dave and Austin prepare experimental materials in the laboratory

The only downside is that the ZEN field sites are subtidal and are so deep that they have to be surveyed by professional divers. This means that the bulk of my and Dave’s work is done in the lab. The facilities are setup differently from the lab back at VIMS, but the work itself is similar. After a strenuous first week, we have settled into a manageable schedule.

Outside of the lab, fellow intern Dave and I have begun to explore Zadar in our spare time. Dave is already hooked on espresso and sparkling water, and I’m trying to discover more about the culture of the young people here. This led me to watch a heavy metal music show in an old puppet theater, which was pretty strange but somehow felt completely natural. We next hope to visit a few of the world-famous beaches here in Croatia, and learn how to best avoid the crowds of German tourists. Who knew that this was such a popular spot for science, and for a holiday?

A buoyant day in the field

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San Diego State University undergraduate Whitney

San Diego State University undergraduate Whitney Dailey

by Whitney Dailey (San Diego State University undergraduate, ZENtern)

One of my favorite parts of the ZEN seagrass ecosystem ecology course at San Diego State University this past spring semester was working in the field and learning about seagrass ecology through a hands on approach.

One field day that I will never forget was when we were collecting our predation intensity experiment. The experiment consists of deploying several “tethers”, which are made by gluing grazers (in this case small grass shrimp or snails) to fishing line placed out in the seagrass bed. We then come back later to record whether the animals have been eaten. The purpose of the experiment is to understand the level of predation in the environment and the relatively susceptibility of different types of grazers.

Whitney and classmates learn the importance of being prepared for the unexpected - and in bringing weight belts out into the field

Whitney and classmates at SDSU learn the importance of being prepared for the unexpected – and in bringing weight belts out into the field

However, one of the main lessons that we learned during our time in the field with the ZEN class is that every experiment has its own challenges and the trick is to problem solve and find a way around it. On this particular field day we met the challenge of trying to schedule fieldwork around both our class schedule and the tide. For us this meant struggling to find the tethers in around 3 to 4 feet (1-1.5 meters) of water. While this may not sound challenging, we found it to be very difficult. We would try to dive down, but the extra buoyancy from our wetsuits at that shallow depth made us pop up to the surface right away. So, we just floated on the surface and would reach down and try to find them and pull them out. The trick was not giving up, and remembering to bring a weight belt in the future.

After many failed attempts of trying to retrieve the tethers, we were finally able to hold onto the pieces of rebar we’d installed to mark our experimental plots, and feel around until we found the tether and pulled it out. Every time we found a tether we would get so excited – until we moved on to retrieve the next one. But, with a lot of commitment and perseverance we completed our field day at our ZEN site in San Diego Bay and learned new methods for problem solving during fieldwork. We also learned that in marine ecology (and likely the other sciences) the truly exciting part comes from overcoming challenges, even the ones you didn’t anticipate!

Whitney graduated summa cum laude this May from San Diego State University, receiving her Bachelors of Science in Biology and Environmental Science. She has been working in seagrass ecology as part of Dr. Kevin Hovel’s lab for the past four years including on the initial ZEN projects in 2011-2012. Hailing from Washington, Whitney enjoys playing basketball and taking photographs in her spare time. This fall she plans to being a job as a research technician before applying to graduate school. Whitney will be traveling to work with Dr. Per-Olav Moksnes and his research group in Sweden as par of her ZENternship this summer.

A closer look at an eelgrass inhabitant – the Dungeness crab

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UCD undergraduate Jason Toy

UCD undergraduate Jason Toy

by Jason Toy (Undergraduate student in the UCD ZEN class)

Several weeks ago, I was out at Bodega Bay with my classmates from the UCD ZEN course collecting field data for our research projects.  As I stood out there in the water in my borrowed waders, I observed quite a few different species of invertebrates as they made their way through the bed of eelgrass.  Most were quite familiar to me at that point, but there were a few species, including the Dungeness crab, Cancer magister, that I had not thought of as typical eelgrass inhabitants.  I decided to do a little research on the life history of these crustaceans in order to better understand the importance of estuarine seagrass beds to this – and potentially other – important crustacean species.

Life cycle of the Dungeness crab (Tasto et al. 1983)


I was surprised to learn that these crabs move around quite a bit during their life histories.  Adults mate in nearshore coastal locations in the Pacific Northwest throughout the spring (Pauley et al., 1989), a process in which the male embraces the female for up to 7 days before she molts, after which the actual transfer of sperm occurs. She stores this sperm for about a month until she extrudes her eggs and, in the process of doing so, they are fertilized (Tasto et al., 1893).  But her care doesn’t end there.  She protects her eggs by storing them on her abdomen for several months until winter (typically December – January). Then one day, these 1-2 million eggs hatch and the baby crabs leave their mother and enter a 105-125 day planktonic larval period. During this time the young Dungeness crab goes through many developmental changes, moving through 5 zoeal and 1 megalopal stages.  After reaching the megalopa stage, the young crabs settle out onto the bottoms of bays and estuaries, where they molt into their first juvenile crab stage and begin to actually resemble real crabs.

During field sampling, Jason and classmates found a few juvenile Dungeness crabs hiding amid the eelgrass in Bodega Bay, California

During field sampling, Jason and classmates found a few juvenile Dungeness crabs hiding amid the eelgrass in Bodega Bay, California

This is where seagrass comes in!  Coastal estuaries (like Bodega Harbor) play a critical role for juvenile Dungeness crabs as a nursery.  Large numbers of juvenile crabs benefit from the protection and substrate provided by beds of eelgrass (Zostera marina). They cling to and hide within the grass, consuming other small organisms within the habitat (amphipods, isopods, polychaetes, essentially whatever they can catch!) (Pauley et al., 1989).  After several molts, subadults and adult Dungeness crabs begin to leave the eelgrass beds and move offshore, but a few do remain in inland coastal waters, hiding among the eelgrass blades.

Dr. Stachowicz and Jason pause for a quick photo during the class field trip

Dr. Stachowicz and Jason pause for a quick photo during the class field trip

The role of seagrass beds in the life history of Dungeness crabs is an important interaction to talk about because it is an example of an economic benefit (known as an ecosystem service) provided by seagrass beds.  Seagrasses are critical species in coastal environments around the globe, as they form habitat structure and promote a large diversity of organisms.  However, like the coral reefs, they are currently in decline due to the effects of human activities.  The connection of an economically important species such as Cancer magister to these seagrass ecosystems, however, can help bring attention to this issue, and provide an incentive for the preservation and restoration of this habitat. Help spread the word!

For more information, check out these references:

Pauley, G. B., Armstrong, D. A., Citter, R. V., & Thomas, G. L. (1989). Species Profiles: Life Histories and  Environmental Requirements of Coastal Fishes and Invertebrates (Pacific Southwest): Dungeness Crab. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Biological Report 82(11.121): 7-8.

Tasto, R. N., & Wild, P. W. (1983) Life History, Environment, and Mariculture Studies of the Dungeness   Crab, Cancer Magister, With Emphasis on The Central California Fishery Resource. California  Department of Fish and Game Fish Bulletin 172, 319-320. Retrieved June 11, 2014, from

Jason is an aspiring marine ecologist with a passion for all things science. He is a rising senior at UC Davis studying evolution and ecology. His dream job is to be a research SCUBA diver. This summer he will be working in Dr. Jay Stachowicz’s marine ecology lab at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Loving science for the challenge

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San Diego State University undergraduate Chris Bayne

San Diego State University undergraduate Chris Bayne

by Christopher Bayne (San Diego State University undergraduate, ZENtern)

Field days have to be one of my favorite parts of science for two main reasons. The first reason is fairly obvious – we get to go out to the field site, which means getting some exercise, being in the sun, and working in the natural environment. You can’t beat that! The second reason is less intuitive. I really enjoy the challenges of fieldwork and problem solving. No matter how well protocols are planned and how many times you go over them, it seems that the smallest thing can turn into the biggest pain. Even though these problems can be time consuming and counterproductive, they keep you on your toes.

Along those lines, the ZEN predation intensity experiment comes to mind. The first time we deployed the experiment, which tested different materials as potential standardized prey to be used in experiments conducted by all of the ZEN partners, we used braided line threaded through different bait types. We separated each bait into separate bags for “quick and easy” deployment in the field. However, when we reached our field site we soon discovered that, when braided line goes into a bag, the mixture of moving around, getting wet, and Murphy’s law results in a knot so bad that you can barely distinguish one line from another. It just so happens that this occurred to six of our eight different bait types. What do we do?

The ZEN SDSU class conducting field experiments in the eelgrass in San Diego Bay

The ZEN SDSU class conducting field experiments in the eelgrass in San Diego Bay

We approached the problem like you do with so many other unexpected field issues. You accept it and just jump in headfirst.  You approach the knot and honestly, there is no apparent advantage of coming at it at any certain way. You just begin trying to separate each line one at a time. You try different things: weaving the bait end through, loosening the most knotted sections, pulling the line through slowly. You swear you’ve undone hundreds of knots yet the ball of tangled string never looks as if any progress was made. Finally, you notice one looks as if it is almost loose. You put all your effort into that and get it out with this silent victory to yourself. Eventually they are all loose and you re-wrap them in a way that they will not get tangled up again. You think about what you could or should have done to avoid this mess. You finish up what needs to be done, knowing you are ready for whatever comes next.

In the end, the problem of the knotted line may be small but it is symbolic of the problems researchers face all the time. Little complications creep out of nowhere, completely unexpected. You try a million different solutions and begin to loose faith when nothing seems to work. If you have enough patience, the knot will eventually loosen and you will be victorious, swearing that you will never make that mistake again. This is why I have chosen to do science. It is challenging in so many ways. Learning the correct terminology, setting up experiments, finding solutions to unexpected problems – these are just some of the reasons why science is challenging and yet very rewarding.

Working on a project as large as ZEN adds an additional level of complexity in both coordinating large teams of people distributed all over the globe. This summer I will be travelling to Japan to work with the ZEN partners in both Akkeshi and Hiroshima. It is an amazing opportunity that not many undergraduates get to be a part of. I am looking forward to all of the challenges I will be facing this summer. I’m sure there will be more than a few but, if I’ve learned my lesson, tangled fishing lines will not be one of them!

Chris is a rising senior at San Diego State University pursuing his bachelor’s in biology and Japanese. Before starting the ZEN program Chris worked with Dr. Violet Compton Renick on her dissertation research examining the interactive effects of parasites and pesticides on killifish behavior. During the SDSU ZEN course Chris led a feeding experiment where he measured the grazing rates of several different types of San Diego mesograzer. This summer Chris will be traveling as part of his ZENternship to Japan to assist Drs. Massa Nakaoka and Massakazu Hori. 

Science boot-camp at the Bodega Marine Lab

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UC Davis undergraduate Julie Blaze

UC Davis undergraduate Julie Blaze

by Julie Blaze (UC Davis undergraduate, ZENtern)

Marine biologists don’t often find themselves trekking through dense remote jungles or climbing desolate mountains to conduct their research.  Some would say we’ve got it pretty easy – the ocean covers around 70% of the earth’s surface, and studying biodiversity can be as easy as walking out to the coast and digging in the sand.  The only downside to the job is that we are captives to the ebb and flow of the tides.  My classmates and I in the ZEN class at UCD found that out the hard way when we took a field trip to the Bodega Marine Laboratory to survey the eelgrass growing in Bodega Harbor.

The UCD ZEN students began sampling with the rising sun in Bodega Bay, California

The UCD ZEN students began sampling with the rising sun in Bodega Bay, California

As someone who enjoys sleep, I can honestly say it is difficult to wake up at 5:30 am for any reason.  Awake before the sun and trudging across the mud flats before its first rays had even reached the water, I know I wasn’t the only one thinking of the warm, comfy beds we had left behind.  My boots were a little too big and kept getting stuck in the mud – I almost went sprawling face down into the mud more than once.  As the sun rose, I wondered what we must have looked like to anyone watching from the shore – a zombie-like group of college students floundering in the mud.  Slowly we gained more energy and set about surveying a large expanse of the seagrass bed collecting samples and taking measurements.  We worked efficiently and conversation picked up as excitement and adrenaline grew with each new discovery and lapping reminder of the incoming tide.  At first glance the mudflats and seagrass meadows look barren, but we quickly found that they teemed with life.  Critters clung to the grass or buried themselves in the mud – making this eelgrass bed, similar to other seagrass meadows, one of the most diverse ecosystems in the ocean.

The UCD ZEN class samples an experiment in Bodega Bay, California

The UCD ZEN class collect mesograzers from the eelgrass for a class experiment

After a few hours the water had crept too high for us to work and we headed back to the lab to  begin processing our samples.  We put in a long day, getting as much done as we could before calling it quits. We all found those cozy beds soon after a late dinner, with the promise of another early field day tomorrow.

The next morning we again rose before the sun and stumbled out into the mud. But this time we were more familiar with the science – the methodology and how to work as a team – and we finished before the water chased us out.

By the end of the weekend I was  thoroughly exhausted, but I didn’t care.  We had spent an incredible weekend having an amazing adventure.  Not only did I learn about the animals and ecosystem we were exploring, but I also learned several things about myself that weekend.  First, I learned that I am willing and able to wake up before the sun to do research.  Second, not even the wilds of a remote jungle can tempt me away from the mysteries of the ocean.  And, finally, one lesson I will never forget – it’s easy to stay awake once your boots flood with freezing cold seawater. But, it’s even easier when you’re also out exploring a location as interesting as a Bodega Bay seagrass bed!

Julie is a graduating senior at UC Davis majoring in Biology. This summer she will be a ZENtern working with Dr. Nessa O’Connor in Ireland. Julie is a true team player and earned the nickname “den mother” during the 3-day, marathon class field trip and subsequent weeks of sample processing back on campus.

Photos contributed by Aaron Goodman.

Surrounded by Science

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Kendra Chanby Kendra Chan (UC Davis ZEN course undergraduate student)

Over the past school year, I have finally found my people and my calling. I’ve been lucky enough to participate in the UC Davis ZEN course this spring quarter. Unlike your typical research university lecture hall of 300+ students, this class was limited to only 12 undergraduates.  But it wasn’t the 6:1 student to faculty ratio that made this class special – rather, it was the people themselves.

As an underclassman, I was herded around the general biology pre-requisite path with the several hundred other students in the college. I found the intro biology series fascinating, but to my dismay, the majority of my peers expressed boredom even in the lab sections. However, this ZEN class was entirely different—it has been one of the few times I’ve been completely surrounded by people that are just as interested in marine ecology as I am, if not more (which I didn’t know was possible). Instead of being held back by classmates that lacked knowledge and interest about the subject at hand (e.g., marine communities), I was motivated and inspired by the passion and expertise demonstrated by the eleven other students and two instructors. Because of this, we were able to progress quickly through lecture topics and have intellectually stimulating discussions.

ASUs (artificial seagrass untis) deployed in Bodega harbor for one of the UCD ZEN class experiments

ASUs deployed during one of the UCD ZEN class experiments

During the first class period, I knew I had found the right class because we had a lengthy and heated debate about how exactly to deploy the ASUs (Artificial Seagrass Units, or glorified green plastic ribbon) we had just built in order to get the most interesting data. This time, we the students were in control or our own experiment, and we had a plethora of scientifically interesting questions to ask. We weighed the pros and cons of each scenario, and after much discussion settled upon an experimental design.

Needless to say, the past 10 weeks have been a great learning experience for me. Not only did I become well versed in eelgrass ecosystems, but I also learned more about how to be a scientist through lectures, discussion, and my favorite, hands-on field work.

The UCD ZEN class can get a bit silly, especially when asked to act out their favorite mesograzer

The UCD ZEN class can get a bit silly, especially when asked to act out their favorite mesograzer

Although I won’t be exclusively working for ZEN this summer, I will still be immersed in eelgrass research. I’m excited to once again be surrounded by marine ecologists in Bodega Bay, and know I will continue to be inspired by both the scientists and the sea.




Kendra Chan is a rising senior at UC Davis. Her favorite experiment in the ZEN class was an assay of predation intensity in Bodega harbor. Her dream is to save the world with science – combining science and education with conservation and sustainability to better understand and utilize natural ecosystems.

Photos contributed by Kendra and Matt Whalen.

Meet the ZENterns

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We are excited to be sponsoring 19 undergraduate students (hailing from the College of William and Mary, University of California, Davis and San Diego State University) to engage in hands on research with the ZEN program this summer. These “ZENterns” recently completed the ZEN Seagrass Ecosystem Ecology course at their home institution and will travel to different ZEN partner sites to assist with the 2014 field and laboratory experiments. They will be sending back blog posts periodically to report on their adventures – both domestic and abroad.

College of William and Mary

W&M ZENterns (left to right): Austin, Aly, Danielle, Chris, Kyle, and Dave (not pictured: Kara)

W&M ZENterns (left to right): Austin, Ally, Charlie, Danielle, Jessie, Kyle, and Dave (not pictured: Kara)

Kyle Belfort, double major in Biology and Environmental Science and Policy (2015). Kyle is from Virginia and is interested in restoration ecology. Outside of science he is competitive in both mock trial and volleyball. This summer Kyle will be working at the ZEN site in San Francisco, California.

Charles (Charlie) DeatonGeology and Environmental Science double major (2015). From Virginia, Charlie is completing an honors thesis on barrier islands geology. He pays the sousaphone in the W&M Pep Band. Charlie will be working on ZEN projects in both Virginia and North Carolina this summer.

Allison (Ally) Farnan, Environmental Policy and Economics major (2016) . Ally grew up in Tokyo and Maryland and loves to sail, ski, and travel. This summer Ally will be assisting ZEN partners in both Connecticut and Quebec.

Kara Gadeken, Biology major (May 2014). Hailing from Northern Virginia, Kara is a competitive synchronized swimmer. Kara will be assisting with ZEN research in both Vancouver, British Columbia and back in Virginia.

David (Dave) Godschalk, Geology and Marine Science major (May 2014). Dave is originally from Virginia and completed an honors thesis in geology. He’s an avid rock climber and marathon runner. Dave will be traveling with Austin to assist ZEN partners in Croatia this summer.

Danielle Hall, Biology major (2015). Danielle is originally from Massachusetts and has been working with Dr. Duffy studying eusociality in Caribbean shrimp. She loves to dance – both inside and outside the seagrass beds! Danielle will spend the summer with ZEN partners in Vancouver, British Columbia as well as in Massachusetts.

Austin Ruhf, Biology major (May 2014). Originally from Virginia, prior to this summer Austin has only traveled outside of the USA once. When he’s not in the field he loves to play Beatles music and runs a coffeehouse. This summer Austin will be traveling with Dave to assist ZEN partners in Croatia.

Jessie Viss, Biology major (2016). Jessie is originally from California. She will be spending the summer with ZEN partners in Portugal.


University of California, Davis

The UC Davis ZEN class

The UC Davis ZEN class including ZENterns Julie, Josh, Natalia, Ellie, and Austin (not pictured: Nina).

Julie Blaze, Biology major (2014). Julie will be traveling with Ellie to assist ZEN partners in Ireland and then returning to assist with projects in Bodega Bay, California, and up in Oregon.

Joshua (Josh) Chow, Biology major (2014). This summer Josh is traveling to assist ZEN partners in Wales.

Elizabeth (Ellie) Marin, Biology major (2015). Ellie will be traveling with Julie to assist ZEN partners in Ireland and then returning to assist with projects in Bodega Bay, California, and up in Oregon.

Austin Greene, Biology major (2014). Austin is a budding photographer and research SCUBA diver. This summer Austin will be assisting ZEN partners in South Korea.

Nina Nichols, Biology major (2014). Nina speaks fluent French, loves baguettes and silent movies. This summer Nina will be working with ZEN partners in both Quebec and France.

Natalia Villegas, Biology major (2014). This summer Natalia will be working with ZEN partners in both Mexico and France.


San Diego State University

SDSU students (left to right): Whitney, Shay, Jen, Chris, and Josh

SDSU ZENterns (left to right): Whitney, Shay, Jen, Chris, and Josh

Christopher (Chris) Bayne, Biology and Japanese double major (2015). Chris hails from San Diego, California and loves everything water related – kayaking, surfing, swimming, you name it! He is also an AAUS trained research SCUBA diver. This summer Chris is traveling with classmate Josh to the ZEN sites in Japan.

Whitney Dailey, Environmental Science major (2014). Whitney grew up in Washington state. She plays almost every kind of sport and loves photography. Whitney is an AAUS trained research diver, NAUI Master diver, and PADI drysuit certified diver. This summer Whitney is traveling to the ZEN site in Sweden.

Joshua (Josh) Jaeger, Marine Biology major (2015). Josh is from San Diego, California and one of his favorite classes at SDSU was a philosophy course on knowledge and reality. Josh is also an AAUS trained research SCUBA diver. This summer Josh is traveling with classmate Chris to the ZEN sites in Japan.

Jennifer (Jen) Joseph, Marine Biology major (2015). Jen is from Northern California and is a research SCUBA diver. Jen loves everything Harry Potter and is a huge fan of the San Jose Sharks ice hokey team. Jen is traveling to the ZEN sites in Mexico and Massachusetts this summer.

Shay Hengen, Marine Biology major (2016). Shay grew up in Northern Idaho and has been working in Dr. Hovel’s lab since her freshman year at SDSU. Her hobbies include drawing, snowmobiling, and everything related to Batman. She will be traveling to assist with ZEN research in Finland this summer.

The ZEN of Active Learning

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pamelareynolds by Pamela Reynolds (ZEN postdoc and coordinator)

A novel component of ZEN2, in spring 2014 we launched a coordinated upper division undergraduate Seagrass Ecosystem Ecology course at each of the three core ZEN sites. Dr. Emmett Duffy and graduate student Jon Lefcheck instructed a group of 8 students at the College of William and Mary, Dr. Kevin Hovel and graduate student Erin Voigt taught 6 students at San Diego State University, and Drs. Jay Stachowicz and Pamela Reynolds co-taught another 12 students at the University of California, Davis. The course focused on ecological theory and hands on training in marine ecology field methods. We incorporated lectures and readings of the primary literature with field trips and student-led surveys and experiments.

The College of William and Mary ZEN students

College of William and Mary ZEN students in the Chesapeake, Virginia

UC Davis ZEN class

UC Davis ZEN class in Bodega Bay, California

San Diego State University ZEN class

San Diego State University ZEN class in San Diego, California

Each course topic and experiment in the course corresponded to a main theme and goal of ZEN – from top-down/bottom-up ecology and biodiversity ecosystem functioning to experimental design and habitat restoration. In an immersion instruction style, students performed research typical in marine ecology, working both indoors and outdoors, with living organisms, under a wide variety of conditions. The students gave presentations both within their own class and, via teleconferencing, to the other ZEN classes. The course gave students a rigorous background in not only the “why” behind the science and a sense of the history of the field, but also the “how” of doing the science itself. With such small class sizes we were fortunate to be able to engage the students in this active learning style and to really connect with and get to know them. Success in the class was assessed by the students’ ability not to simply memorize facts, but to apply the core concepts of the course to design novel approaches and problem solve both individually and as a team. We hope that additional ZEN partners will engage with similar networked courses in the future and further strengthen the connections among our diverse partnership.

A subset of the students in the ZEN classes are participating in our ‘ZENternship’ program -a hands on training experience following the prior ZEN graduate student exchange program of 2012 and modeled after the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The ZENternship for 2014 involves student travel to different partner sites this summer to assist with ongoing ZEN research.

We were thrilled to have a great group of students participate in this first ZEN class and can’t wait to hear about their summer research experiences – both at home and abroad. And, we are all more than a little bit jealous that we didn’t have such an integrative class to take when we were undergraduates!

Check back here to read more about the ZENterns and their experiences conducting research at home and abroad this summer.