Our goal is to build research capacity within the Indo-Pacific marine science community and increase the involvement of U.S. marine scientists in the region. To this end we have created scientific research opportunities for U.S. and Indo-Pacific graduate/undergraduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty through research-intensive courses, institutional exchanges and undergraduate education.
Microbial Ecology and Metagenomics Course
In 2014, thirteen Indonesian and American students took part in a three-week, full-time summer course on microbial ecology and metagenomics at San Diego State University. This combination of research activities, project-based learning, and active discussion created a rigorous environment for scientific learning, while hands-on experience with DNA extraction, next-generation sequencing, and bioinformatics gave the students the tools they needed to delve into their scientific questions in the field and lab.
A key part of engaging students in marine biodiversity research is ensuring that they are certified as scientific divers by the American Academy of Underwater Scientists (AAUS). So that U.S. and students and scientists from Indo-Pacific countries can work together in the field, we hold our AAUS classes in the field so that both American and foreign partners can participate equally in all field activities.
Research and Education Experience on Coral Reefs
Supported by the NSF PIRE grant, students annually join an international team of faculty, postdocs, and graduate students for research-intensive courses and collaborative research in the US and at sites in the Indo-Pacific. Students attend lectures and gain training in both field methods and genetic techniques required for modern biodiversity studies. The program allows students to work collaboratively on projects designed to improve our understanding of the origins of marine biodiversity in the Pacific, as well as the conservation of this biodiversity hotspot. Hands-on field and laboratory research is complemented by mentoring on career development, ranging from successfully applying to graduate school to choosing a career.
In 2014, following the course at SDSU, students traveled to Mo’orea, French Polynesia for three weeks of teaching and field research. While there, the students were taught methods to explore biodiversity, introduced to ARMS-based research, and conducted a number of field- and laboratory-based research projects to investigate questions focused on the ecology and biodiversity of coral reefs. These projects put to use their new skills in conducting science on SCUBA and employing molecular approaches in the lab learned during the metagenomics course. The students are currently preparing publications detailing the results of their successful field experiments.
The Diversity Project is a 10-week educational program designed to increase participation of under-represented minority students in the biological sciences through an integrated research experience that combines fieldwork on colorful and diverse coral reefs with cutting edge molecular genetic research. These students undertake the courses in the U.S. and Indo-Pacific as described above, alongside Indonesian students.
To date, 41 students have taken part in The Diversity Project. In total, 97% of Diversity Project alumni have stayed in science with 46% remaining in marine science disciplines. 63% of our alumni have gone on to graduate school; three have completed their Ph.D.s, two have received masters, three have received Fulbright Scholarships, and eight have received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. With support from the NSF PIRE program, The Diversity Project will run through summer of 2017. Go to this link to see an article on the experience by one of the Diversity students from 2013:
3-6 month Internships at the Smithsonian NMNH and UCLA
Students from Indonesian universities travel to the U.S. to carry out further training in the U.S. partner laboratories. In 2014 the Smithsonian Institution hosted three students, Angka Mahardini, Eka Kirniasih and Andre Sembriring. In the time they spent at SI they gained experience in metabarcoding with Next Generation Sequencing Technologies and Specimen Curation. For more on their experience see the blog post by Angka Mahardini at:
At UCLA Paul Barber hosted five students: Dian Pertiwi, Rizki Wulandari (Wulan), Anji Anggoro, Dita Cahyani, and Masriana (Rina). During their time at UCLA the students worked on learning next-generation sequencing techniques, including 2b-RAD for large-scale population SNP analyses and Ultra-Conserved Element sequencing using sequence capture arrays. Dita and Wulan were awarded Fulbright fellowships to continue their graduate studies in the U.S., Dita will pursue her Ph.D. at UCLA and Wulan her masters at SDSU. Aji received a fellowship from the Indonesian Ministry of Education and will pursue his Ph.D. at UCLA.
Noyce Project LEARN teachers at SDSU were taught about ARMS and their use in assessing marine biodiversity in 2014 in interactive discussions with PIRE postdoc Emma Ransome. A collaboration with one of these teachers has now led to a San Diego high school biology class deploying ARMS in San Diego Bay to assess temperate benthic marine fauna near their school. Based on their own research and a lecture from PIRE postdoc, Aaron Hartmann, the class is developing testable hypotheses and designing a field experiment using ARMS.
As part of The Diversity Project, students conducted an outreach event at the California Science Center for middle and high school students in the AMAN Network, an afterschool science enrichment program for inner-city Los Angeles students. Diving in the large kelp tank, our students conducted experiments to illustrate concepts of depth, pressure, volume, and buoyancy, and had discussions with AMAN students about college, their research and desire to pursue graduate school.