MERP students present research at scientific conference

Eleven seniors in Santa Catalina School’s Marine Ecology Research Program presented their research at a professional conference November 11-13.

The 103rd annual meeting of the Western Society of Naturalists, held in Oxnard, California, drew about 500 people from academia as well as state, federal, and First Nation institutions. Santa Catalina students attend the conference every year and are the only high school representatives.

At the Friday night poster session, the seniors presented the results of research they conducted during their junior year. “They got good questions and had good conversations and encouragement from the community,” said Dr. Christian Reilly, director of the Marine Ecology Research Program. “Folks who approached me told me how impressive they found our students and their work.” In fact, he said, students are often mistaken for college undergraduates.

The students’ research explored such topics as hydrodynamics, sea urchin respiration rates, the relationship between ocean temperature and bacteria, the effect of microplastics on blue mussels and hermit crabs, zebrafish behavior in stormwater runoff, and the sounds of bubbles.

In addition to presenting, students got to attend talks about how research contributes to management and policy, how the pandemic inspired innovations in exploration, and why so many marine species remain unknown. Overall, the experience helped students see what it takes to communicate their research and allowed them to learn about the latest science from the experts.

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