A Postcard From: Camila Silva ’19

Name: Camila Silva
Class Year: 2019
Major: Geology
Hometown: Everett, Mass.

Internship Placement: Sedimentology Laboratory
Job Title: Research intern
Location: Bryn Mawr College

What’s happening at your internship?

This summer I am continuing a research project that I began last summer. I, along with my lab team, collect peat cores from salt marshes in Plum Island, Mass., and analyze them for their percent of organic matter. We focus mainly on two creeks, West and Sweeney, that have been under observation for more than a decade now. West creek is unfertilized, however, Sweeney creek is fertilized with nitrate with each diurnal tide. In these recent years, the banks of Sweeney creek have been collapsing and the hypothesis is that since the nutrients are being introduced to the above ground biomass instead of the belowground, then the plants are losing belowground biomass since they do not really need their services. Most of my time in the internship is spent in the lab processing these cores. There are a couple ways of analyzing the carbon content of peat samples, but we use a procedure called Loss on ignition (LOI). Each core we extract is 50 cm long, thus, we cut each of them per centimeter and LOI every other segment. We weigh the dry samples before and after putting them in the muffle furnace for 4 hours at 550 degrees Celsius. With this data we then can calculate the carbon stock in each marsh and determine if there is a difference between the carbon stocks of the fertilized and unfertilized marshes to prove the hypothesis.

Why did you apply for this internship?

As an undeclared freshman I was indecisive whether to major in biology or geology, but I never had much experience with either. I worked in Professor Thomas Mozdzer’s ecology lab and he knew I was very interested in working with coastal systems so I began working a hybrid in his lab and in Professor Don Barber’s sedimentology lab. I soon grew very fond of my work in the sedimentology lab and this year I am continuing my work there.

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

Although I enjoy working in the lab, my favorite part of this internship is the field trips. I never really traveled so it is always fun to see new places. We have taken trips to Plum Island, Mass., SERC in Maryland and Gloucester, N.C. Each place is so different and that creates new and quite fun experiences.

Was this internship what you expected it to be?

I had no clue what this internship was going to be when I stated it last year and I was very delighted with what it turned out to be. Going into it this year I thought I knew exactly what it was going to be, but I was and still am being surprised every day. I am continuously learning more about what I am doing in the lab and my ideas are always challenged, which forces me to look at certain things with different points of view.