TRU: Your project is titled, “Do ontogenetic changes in body colouration correspond to changes in habitat use in hard bodied benthic marine invertebrates?”. Boil it down for us.
RD: I am studying the colouration of hard bodied invertebrates such as snails, crabs, barnacles, and mussels as they grow. I analyse their colour at specific body weights to see if there is a common trend, such as if the animals change colour at specific weights, or if only motile organisms have body colouration changes. I am studying about 20 different species, and hope to do some experiments with diet and light exposure to see if these factors affect body colouration as well.
TRU: What attracted you to the research?
RD: Research has always been a field I wanted to explore. I have always wanted to get out into the field and try to answer questions that have never been explored before. I’ve always wanted to input my knowledge and research into the pool of information that is floating around, so that maybe one day someone can use my research to help them understand our world a little bit better.
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TRU: You received an Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP) grant. How did you use it?
RD: The UREAP grant I received has gone to my tuition for next year, but I also hope to use some for my travel expenses and housing costs.
TRU: Are you are doing research this summer? Where?
RD: I am doing my research at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
TRU: Will this lead to a presentation or publishing opportunity?
RD: Every researcher hopes that their findings will lead to a publishable paper, and I expect with the line of research I am in there could be that possibility for me as well. The topic I am studying has never really been done before, so if a trend or interesting pattern is found in my research it could be possible for publication and presentations; however, I am still only collecting my data and have not been able to analyse my findings.
TRU: What do you love about research? What don’t you like about it?
RD: What I love about research is that I get to go out into the field and work with different species and learn about each one of them. What I don’t like about research is the inevitable mistakes that are made and the repetition that occurs with that.
TRU: Who in your field do you admire and why?
RD: In my field there are many people to admire. Of course I admire my supervisor, Dr. Louis Gosselin, for his dedication in this field and the research he has contributed. Also I am consistently in awe of Dr. Margaret McFall-Ngai who does amazing research on the interactions between bioluminescent bacteria and their hosts, the Hawaiian bobtail squid.
TRU: What impact do you hope your research will have?
RD: I hope that the research I am doing today will help scientists in the future who are studying newly discovered species. I hope that it will help them identify the life stages of new hard bodied invertebrates, and I hope it will lead to new research on the topic. Mostly, I hope that my research on this project will encourage me to continue my education through research by embarking on a master’s and a doctoral degree in the years to come.
Read more from our Q & A series on undergraduate student researchers.