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Senior presents marine biology research at national conference

Catherine Alves '13 traveled with a team of scientists to present at a professional research conference.
Catherine Alves '13 traveled with a team of scientists to present at a professional research conference.

Biological sciences major Catherine Alves recently had a chance to share with other scientists what she has learned about tiny plankton with the potential to wreak havoc on the San Francisco Estuary.

Alves spent the summer researching with a team of graduate students and a professor at San Francisco State University’s Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, as a part of a National Science Foundation-funded research experience for undergraduates. The group looked at the genetic diversity of invasive copepods (or plankton) introduced to estuary by ships coming from East Asia.

“These invasions have implications on the local food webs because plankton are at the base of the food chain,” Alves said. “Our interest is to gain a better understanding of what makes these species successful in their invasive range, and we used their DNA to gain more knowledge.”

While the results of the study are not yet public, Alves traveled with the team to the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology’s 2013 Annual Conference in January to present the findings to other scientists.

In addition to presenting her own research, Alves had the opportunity to attend talks about a wide range of topics in integrative and comparative biology and to mingle with some of the field’s top experts.

“It was a great opportunity for an undergraduate such as myself to see what life in the sciences is like,” she said.

Alves, who is interested in the conservation of marine ecosystems, said the conference inspired her to examine questions that are comparative in nature. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in marine biology and would like to eventually work as a biologist with a non-profit conservation organization that collaborates with communities.

-- By Bailey Bennett ’14

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