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Biology Internships Provide Unique Learning Experiences

01/02/19

Page EllsworthMCLA students serve campus internships that focus on caring for various forms of animal life, as well as a variety of habitats for the Department of Biology. This experience, according to Dr. Justin Golub, associate professor of biology, is unique, compared to other schools.

In addition to caring for zebrafish and guppies, students maintain various habitats, including a temperate marine ecosystem, a tropical marine ecosystem, a freshwater stream system, and the greenhouse pond. “They also take care of the crayfish, salamander, and leopard geckos which are all used for classroom observation in biology,” Golub said.

The program provides up to 12 students a year with hands-on, practical experience working with animals and also exposes them to a variety of fauna. This, Golub said, sets them apart. 

“Students also troubleshoot issues and conduct research on animal care, habitat design, and special considerations when working with these animals in captivity,” he added.

Biology major Page Ellsworth ’19 of Tyringham, Mass., (pictured above) takes care of crayfish and mosquitofish, and observes their natural behaviors. “They demonstrate to me how they fight over territory, interact with one another, feed, and just simply are themselves,” she said.

Eventually, she aims to work in the field of wildlife biology, with a focus on bat conservation. “Bats are keystone species to their ecosystems, and it is important to understand the various ecosystems and how all of the organisms are tied in together,” Ellsworth said.

Ellsworth also is involved with an independent study project centered on the campus greenhouse’s hydroponic system. In hydroponics, plants are not grown in soil. Instead, they develop in a water-based, nutrient-rich solution.

“This independent research,” she said, “gives me hands-on experience working to find the niches that various organisms fill, and also what can go wrong when something is missing from an ecosystem.”