Women in Science Intern Alumnae

2015 High School Internships


Sydney Somchith--Intern (High School) Women in Science, Riffles In The Stream: Exploring Water Quality Through Historical Distributions Of Water Beetles In Illinois And The Surrounding Area: Human life relies on access to fresh, clean water free from pollutants and pathogens. If accurate ecological and distributional data are available, we can use aquatic organisms, such as insects, to evaluate water quality, with one of the most sensitive of these groups being the riffle beetles, or dryopoid water beetles. Former curator Harry G. Nelson collected this group extensively and his collection is now part of the FMNH Insect Collection. At last count (1971), the Harry G. Nelson collection of dryopoid water beetles comprised over 100,000 specimens, both pinned and in alcohol, making it one of the largest and most important collections of its kind, particularly for the upper Midwestern United States. Despite this, it is largely unknown to water beetle workers and the data is locked away on paper field notes and on the labels of uncatalogued specimens. An inventory of the collection and digitization of Harry Nelson’s field notes will provide the first steps towards making this data accessible to the broader research community. Watch Sydney's internship video.


Genevieve Fisher--Intern (High School) Women in Science, Chinese Opera Case Conservation Project: The scope of the Chinese Opera Case Conservation Project is to deinstall, document and perform treatment to approximately 75 Chinese theater complete costumes and props exhibited since the late 1920’s. The costumes include beautiful textile garments, paper mache masks, jewelry, shoes, and associated props. The intern will work with conservators, collection managers, and exhibits production during the project. Each object will need to be deinstalled from the display case, photographed, examined, receive conservation treatment, and prepared for storage. The intern will assist the conservators in treatment of these objects as needed. Watch Genny's internship video.


Jayishnu Srinivas--Intern (High School) Women in Science, Silurian Reef Digitization Project: The Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH) along with its partner The Milwaukee Public


Museum (MPM) support the conversion of the institutions paperbased catalog records of its Silurian fossil collection to electronic form. The cooperative effort will create a consolidated online database with locality, stratigraphic, and systematic data along with select locality and specimen photographs of the world’s most extensive Silurian collections from the upper Midwest (mid-continent). The Silurian fossils in these institutions document the recovery and diversification of reef and level bottom-communities following the late Ordovician extinction event. The project will expand access to the collections and make information regarding those collections more widely, accurately and engagingly available to diverse audiences including research scientists, the general public, and students of all ages. The three year project will use on-site data entry technicians at each institution to convert the approximately 31,000 existing specimen and locality catalog records to KE EMu Collections Management System. Additionally, MPM will update and expand our web based “Virtual Silurian Reef” relating the online Silurian collections to content rich sites for the general public and K-12 educators. Watch Jay's internship video.

2015 Undergraduate Internships   


Estefany Romero--Intern (Undergraduate) Women in Science, Let's Discover The Invisible World: Using Next Generation Sequencing To Uncover The Microbial World Inside Spiny Ants: Symbiotic interactions are responsible for the evolution and diversity of life on the planet. To better understand the evolutionary significance of these associations in nature, further studies addressing the diversity of hosts and symbionts are necessary. Insects as hosts are considered an ideal group of organisms for the study of endosymbionts, since they are tolerant with the coexistence of microorganisms internally and externally on the body. There are about 15,000 species of ants widely spread distributed over the globe. The great diversity of the group is due to the great ecological success, resulting in various forms of nesting, feeding preferences and social behaviors with division of labor between castes. The spiny ants (genus Polyrhachis) have a wide distribution, diverse habits, and are often associated with endosymbionts, the “invisible world”. However there are few studies in this area, so there are many remaining questions about these associations. Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Illumina MiSeq2000 can facilitate the discovery of the microbiota associated with the host, showing to be an excellent tool for the characterization of communities previously little studied, such as the microbial diversity associated with insects and how the evolution and ecology of the host may structure host-associated bacterial diversity. The 2015 FMWIS project will investigate the microbiota associated with spiny ants from across their distribution and in the context of their evolutionary history (phylogeny). This study may reveal important aspects of the biology of the Polyrhachis ants, the influence on endosymbionts in this diverse group, in addition to types of symbiotic interactions involved. Watch Estefany's internship video.


Viridiana Lopez--Intern (Undergraduate) Women in Science, Incredible Morphological Diversity In The Most Diverse Group Of Vertebrates: The Fish Collection at The Field Museum contains over 2 million specimens. These specimens are from all taxonomic groups, from all over the world, and collected from as recently as last year to as long ago as the late 1800s. Clearing and staining is a process these specimens can undergo to allow scientists to visualize their skeletons. This project will assist in building the cleared and stained collection in Fishes at The Field Museum. The intern will learn the techniques and methods of clearing and staining, based on specimens of many different types of fishes. The intern will then work with the supervisor to select a variety of cleared and stained specimens that can then be imaged and used for education and outreach activities. Watch Viri's internship video.

Destiny Reeves--Intern (Undergraduate) Women in Science, Worked in the Insects Department to digitize the Richard B. Loomis mite collection. Watch Destiny's intern video.


2014 Internship Recipients:


Stephanie Alvarado, FMWIS 2014 High School Intern, Yorkville High School, Yorkville, IL  

Stephanie is attending the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign to either study Integrative Biology or Early Childhood Education. She is passionate about both subjects and is still trying to decide which one she would like to pursue as a career. This summer, Stephanie worked with Wendy Quinlan at the N.W. Harris Learning Collection. During her time there, she worked with experience boxes. Experience boxes are hands on kits for the classroom that contain items and artifacts that teachers can use to promote object based learning in their classrooms. These objects can range from beehives and raccoon pelts, to ancient Aztec and Mayan artifacts. Stephanie's job at the Learning Collection was to go through each experience box and check the condition of each item. She needed to make sure that every object was in good shape so that everything in these experiences boxes is well preserved and unimpaired for educators using them in their classrooms. Stephanie thoroughly enjoyed her time at the Learning Collection. "It was an amazing experience, both educational and fulfilling. I found myself discovering new things every single day. I hope to one day be able to volunteer once again at the N.W. Harris Learning Collection!" 
Watch Stephanie's internship video.


Hannah Davis, FMWIS 2014 High School Intern, Wheaton North High School, Wheaton, IL
Currently a junior at Wheaton North High School, Hannah has her sights set on a future in photojournalism. However, she has always been interested in the science of how things work or behave. Her intern assignment was entitled "Walking Lichens" and her main supervisors were Jim Boone and Robert Lücking, with subsequent supervisors being Allie Stone and Kelsey Keaton. She mainly worked in the Insect Collection, which holds over four-and-a-half million specimens. Hannah sifted through drawers of Praying Mantids, Katydids, Grasshoppers, Treehoppers, Walking Sticks, and Moths, looking for species which mimicked lichen. Her "mini-collection" consisted of 106 specimens belonging to 88 unique species. From there she managed to database and image 30 of those specimens, making headway towards the goal of a fully digitized collection in the future. One of the more interesting species, Choeradodis rhombicollis - also known as the Shield Mantid - is known to allow the growth of lichens on its shield. This phenomenon has not been found within the insect world otherwise, so far as we know. This internship has truly opened Hannah's eyes to the power of the individual and the extreme dedication of the staff behind the scenes at The Field Museum. She reports that she will remember her time spent there fondly, and highly suggest volunteering within the Field Museum. "It’s a great way to broaden your horizons and learn something new."
Watch Hannah's internship video.


Madeleine Farris, FMWIS 2014 High School Intern, Jones College Prep, Chicago, IL
This summer, Madeleine worked with Emily Baca and Ryan Patrick Williams.  Madeleine's project, "Archaeological Study of Peruvian Materials in the South American Laboratory" involved working with ceramics and pottery to learn more about Inca economy and society. 
Watch Madeleine's internship video.


Lissette Arellano, FMWIS 2014 Undergraduate Intern, DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Prior to beginning her senior year at DePaul University, where she is studying Biological Sciences, Lissette Arellano spent her summer working as an intern with Dallas Krentzel and Ken Angielczyk. Her intern project was titled “Evolution of the Mammalian Feeding System,” and it was focused on the evolution of rodent masticatory muscles. Lissette had the opportunity to work in The Field Museum’s expansive Mammals Collection, from where she obtained the skulls of rodents that were studied in her project. Being the largest group of mammals in existence, and occupying nearly every continent and habitat imaginable, rodents exhibit an exorbitant amount of diversity. Early in their evolutionary history, the arrangement of muscles on rodent mandibles diversified to three groups, all of which remain today. As part of her project, Lissette surveyed the diversity of rodents’ mandibles and the mechanical advantage provided by the different muscle arrangement groups across rodent taxa and ecosystems. To do this, she collected morphometric data using calipers, she digitized images of the mandibles being used, and she collected digital morphometric data of the rodent mandibles along muscle attachment points. The analysis of this data allowed her to compare the mechanical advantages of these muscle arrangements for gnawing and chewing, the two main uses of rodent teeth, which yielded fascinating, and at times unexpected, results. Following this enlightening, intellectually stimulating, and rewarding internship experience, Lissette was able to present her project’s findings at The Field Museum’s REU Symposium.
Watch Lissette's internship video.


Sonia Leon, FMWIS 2014 Undergraduate Intern, Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, IL 

This summer, Sonia was involved in a spatial analysis project researching urban coyotes within the Chicago region using a Geographic Information System (GIS). Using infrared trap cameras placed along transects, The Urban Wildlife Institute at the Lincoln Park Zoo has collected several years of data on many species of urban wildlife. Sonia referred to several research articles and a subset of this data from the Urban Wildlife Institute to use GIS analysis in search of common elements in areas of high coyote use. She was interested in answering questions such as “Does the amount of protected land impact coyote use of an area?” and “Does land cover influence coyote use of an area?” This internship allowed Sonia to combine her understanding of biology and GIS and apply it to real world conservation efforts. Sonia's future goals are to continue using and learning GIS methods for use in environmental and ecological issues. She is especially interested in using a GIS to study the spatial ecology and conservation biogeography of insect species.
Watch Sonia's internship video.


Jessica Mohlman, FMWIS 2014 Undergraduate Intern, Northland College, Ashland, WI 
This upcoming academic year, Jessica will be returning to Northland College for her senior year, where she is a double major in Biology and Natural Resources: Wildlife and Fisheries Ecology. This summer concluded her third internship at The Field Museum. Previously, Jessica interned in the Herpetology collections with Alan Resetar and within the Science and Action Center under the supervision of Rebecca Collings. Her project this summer was entitled, “Southern Mexican Economic Botany”. Within the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, there is an excavation site by the name of El Palmillo, a hilltop terrace community which once held the residence of the Zapotec people. While this area was one of the driest in the Valley of Oaxaca, it had some of the largest populations after the Classic Period. The communities were able to survive due to drought resistant plants. These drought resistant plants were used for food, alcohol, medicine, and sources of fiber within this region. Jessica's primary supervisors, Anthropologists Gary Feinman and Linda Nicholas retrieved numerous samples of these plant specimens and brought them back to The Field Museum. During her internship, it was Jessica's responsibility to identify and confirm identification for these plant specimens. The Field Museum initially inspired Jessica's career choice as a child, and she has been honored to continue interning for such an inspiring establishment.
Watch Jessica's internship video.

2013 Internship Recipients:


Racquel Kelley, FMWIS 2013 High School Intern, Marian Catholic High School, Chicago Heights, IL
Racquel spent one month in The Field Museum's bird collection. She gained experience preparing and cataloging bird skins and skeletons, learning the intricate details of collection management along the way. Working alongside Dr. Dave Willard, Racquel received training in various aspects of collections-based research.

Watch Racquel's internship video.



Steph Morgan, FMWIS 2013 Undergraduate Intern, Beloit College, Beloit, WI
Steph spent her time in The Field Museum's insect collection, cataloging the historic ant collection of Robert E. Gregg. Working under Dr. Corrie Moreau and Gracen Brilmyer, Steph learned how to identify ant castes as well as handle and database specimens. She took part in digitizing this important collection so that researchers everywhere can have access to its data.

Watch Steph's internship video.