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Ecosystems Ecology

  • Maria Rodriguez ’19 in the lab at Stroud Water Research Center
    Maria Rodriguez ’19 in the lab at Stroud Water Research Center
  • Maria Rodriguez ’19 (top) works in the biofilm stream room.
    Maria Rodriguez ’19 (top) works in the biofilm stream room.
October 16, 2018
Biology major Maria Rodriguez ’19 was part of a research team of scientists investigating how biofilms function—and how they recover after a catastrophic flooding event.

Where did you intern?

This summer, I interned at Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, Pennsylvania. Over the course of eight weeks, I collaborated with researchers in the Ecosystems Ecology department to design and execute an experiment. Our main research focus was the formation of biofilms (the slippery, sticky substance on top of rocks) in riverine environments, and the microbial communities that composed them. Furthermore, we sought to understand how biofilms form and how they recover from natural stressors, like storms.

What were your responsibilities?

I was tasked with setting up the experiment and monitoring it over the duration of my internship. In its essence, our experiment consisted of observing and quantifying biofilm growth on sterilized rocks that had stream water flowing over them for approximately four weeks before they were disturbed by a storm event. After the storm event had passed, we wanted to observe several things: how the microbial communities were impacted by the storm event, which communities were most affected by the storm, and the success with which communities recovered. 

What was the most meaningful aspect of this internship?

This internship was invaluable to my undergraduate education. The researchers at Stroud made sure that I felt welcome and that I had a hand in every aspect of experiment design and execution. They allowed me to contribute my own ideas and be independent while also offering guidance whenever I needed it. I have always been interested in a career in research, and this experience really solidified that path for me. My SCE will be focused on phage-bacteria interactions, so it isn’t directly related to my research at Stroud, but I wouldn’t rule out that line of research in the future, as it remains very interesting to me. I hope to go to grad school next fall for microbiology. 

Why should prospective students consider studying biology at Washington College?

The biology classes I took here at Washington College excellently prepared me for the tasks that I was assigned. The biology faculty also encouraged me to apply for this internship and offered their support throughout the process. I would not have obtained an opportunity like this anywhere else. Having a close relationship with the biology faculty, coupled with the skills I’ve learned in the classroom, prepared me exceptionally well for my internship, and will continue to be amazing resources for my career in the future. 

Last modified on Oct. 16th, 2018 at 3:22pm by Marcia Landskroener.