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Careers in Science 

July 8, 2009

Spiny dogfish shark dissections!

During the month of March, interns had special trainings about the processes of science. We were taught about the external morphology of the spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias) by Careers in Science Manager, Eric Godoy. These trainings were really cool. It was our first time in the lab and the dissections and observations we were conducting made me feel like a real scientist.
Eric talking about science

Eric talking about science

The Spiny Dogfish is a bottom-dwelling shark that may be found in temperate waters close to shores worldwide. It feeds on smaller fish, octopus, squid, crabs and jellyfish and becomes sexually mature between six to twelve years old. Before starting the lab, we were split into pairs and used various tools to learn about the exterior of the shark. We learned that it has pectoral fins, which help it swim more efficiently. The Dogfish also has spiracles, which are these very small openings that force water across their gills allowing them to remain stationary at the bottom of the ocean. The lateral line, which is common in most sharks, allows the Dogfish to feel vibrations and detect its prey. We were taught about the various planes and directional terms of the Spiny Dogfish. At plain sight, not a lot of physical characteristics can be seen but when an in depth look is taken, many of the small details come to life. You could actually see the spine of the Dogfish along its back!

The following week, Dr. John McCosker, Academy Sr. Scientist and Chair of Aquatic Biology and Dr. Meg Burke, Director of Education, taught us about the inside of the Spiny Dogfish as we dissected (cutting into) the shark. Intern Nicolette Ng made a startling discovery, “I opened up the dogfish’s stomach and inside I found a smaller fish compacted into the same shape as the stomach!”

The idea that people make these kinds of discoveries everyday as marine biologists is very interesting. It provides us with a first hand experience of what breakthroughs we could be a part of when we have a career in science. These trainings were very exciting to me because I have never dissected a shark before. Being a biologist seems like it would be a rewarding career due to the fact that you are able to discover something new everyday!

Yoni and Dina taking measurements

Yoni and Dina taking measurements

Filed under: Conducting Science — CiS Interns @ 3:03 pm

November 17, 2008

Learning How to Handle Reptiles

On Monday November 17, 2008 Brenda Melton, a biologist from the Steinhart aquarium, trained us on handling reptiles.  This training was very important because we will be handling reptiles when we are teaching and we need to make sure that we are handling the reptiles properly so that no one gets injured.  We had the opportunity to handle a pine snake, ball python snake and a blue-tongue skink.  Of course there is always a chance of getting bitten, but if the risk can be prevented, then it is up to us to prevent the accident from happening.

Some of the main rules for handling reptiles are:
•    Keep good hygiene when handling any reptiles so always try to wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
•    Be calm and relaxed.  If you don’t feel comfortable handling the reptile, then it’s probably not a good idea for you to handle the reptile that day or until you feel comfortable because the reptile in which you are handling can sense if you are nervous.
•    Check that the reptile itself is calm and/or relaxed.  By making sure that the reptile is relaxed, you reduce the chance of getting bitten.
•    when you are handling reptiles for the public, you want to make sure that you have the head facing away from the public.
•    You also want to make sure that you are supporting the majority of the reptile’s weight because you can cause some serious injuries to the spine.

Brenda taught us that when you are handling reptiles you should always keep in mind that you have the risk of getting diseases like salmonella.  Salmonella is a type of bacteria that passes from the feces of people or animals to other people or animals.  This is why it is important to wash your hands. Of course not all reptiles carry salmonella, but we treat them as if they all had this disease because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Knowing how to keep good hygiene to prevent salmonella contamination and knowing how to keep people and the reptiles safe, is very important so that everyone has a good experience.

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Handling reptiles properly is a very important skill for us, especially when we are teaching in after school programs and on the floor.

Filed under: Uncategorized — CiS Interns @ 6:33 pm

October 17, 2008

Teaching Science in the Community

During the summer, the Interns gain teaching experience by visiting various summer schools or recreation centers. We typically teach two age groups: kindergarten-2nd grade and 3rd-5th grade. Our lessons are “Incredible Insects”, “Rockin’ Reptiles”, and “Shark Shakedown”. These classes are designed to teach students about the different characteristics and adaptations of these animals.

The parts of an insect from Incredible Insects

The parts of an insect from Incredible Insects

To prepare for teaching the lessons, Interns attend trainings to learn about the curricula and different teaching styles. When we teach the students, our older Interns give the actual lessons while the newer Interns observe. This gives the newer Interns the opportunity to gain a better understanding of different teaching styles, to see how the lessons are run, and how to control the classroom. Teaching in the classroom gives Interns practice for teaching on the public floor and helps us improve our public speaking skills.

Teaching about shark anatomy

Teaching about shark anatomy

We have taught at organizations including the Hamilton Family Center, Jose Ortega Elementary School, Gilman Recreation Connect, Garfield Recreation Connect, West Sunset Recreation Connect, Hayward Recreation Connect, and the Asian Women’s Resource Center. If you would like the Interns to visit your school, program, or recreation center, please contact Eric Godoy, the Careers in Sciences Manager, at 415-379-5109 or by email at


Filed under: Teaching Science — CiS Interns @ 12:42 pm

October 16, 2008

Conducting Science – Sand Crab Monitoring

Beginning in 2004, the intern program has worked with the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and their LiMPETS program (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students) over the summer to collect Pacific mole crabs (Emerita analoga), otherwise known as sand crabs, at Ocean Beach.

Pacific mole crab, aka sand crab

Pacific mole crab, aka sand crab

The two main reasons we participate in this monitoring program are:

We collect and monitor the sand crabs because they are an important link in beach ecosystems; they are prey for shore birds, fish and sea otters. More importantly, sand crabs are intermediate hosts to Acanthocephalan parasites. If the sand crab is infested with parasites and then is consumed by a bird, fish or sea otter, then this new host becomes infected as well, which can lead to death.

The parasite in the body of the sand crab

The parasite in the body of the sand crab

Interns get hands-on experience in performing real research, such as collecting and dissecting specimens as well as data entry.

 Samples are collected once a week between June and August from the same area on Ocean Beach. We take ten samples from five random transects in this area. If the Interns find any sand crabs, we record the sex and length. After we finish, we pick fifteen sand crabs of varying size and sex to bring back and dissect.

Surveying the scene at Ocean Beach

Surveying the scene at Ocean Beach

Collecting a sample

Collecting a sample

Examining the sand crab

While we are dissecting the sand crabs, we record information such as the size, sex of the crab, where and when it was collected, and how many parasites are found. When we finish dissecting the sand crabs, we send the data to the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. They receive data from many other volunteer and school groups. This helps the researchers see the bigger picture and observe long-term changes and trends.

Dissecting the sand crab

Dissecting the sand crab

Filed under: Conducting Science — CiS Interns @ 1:32 pm

August 11, 2008

Intern Introduction

Welcome to the Careers in Science Program (also known as the Intern Program) at the California Academy of Sciences!  The Intern Program is comprised of students that focus on learning science, teaching science, and conducting science, as well as college preparation and job and life skills training.  We teach the public on the museum’s main floor through demonstration and explainer stations and at afterschool programs and community centers.  Interns have the opportunity to work with Academy researchers by working in departments such as the Steinhart Aquarium and Orinthology and Mammology department.

The Intern Program started in 1996 and, as of 2008, has had 144 students pass through its doors.  We are committed to increasing the diversity in the scientific community and changing the common perception that science is only for the elite.  We encourage teens that are interested and/or typically under-represented in the sciences to participate in the Intern Program and to be part of the scientific community.  Students have gone on to pursue degrees in Biology, Genetics, Computer Programming, Engineering, Political Science and many others.

In this blog, various Interns will share their experiences in the Intern Program, ranging from field trips and research experiences to trainings and many other activities.  We hope our readers get a better idea of what the Interns do at The Academy!

Filed under: Uncategorized — CiS Interns @ 6:52 pm
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