Beaverton native Celene Christensen has always loved the outdoors. As a geology and environmental science major in the University Honors College, she’s furthering that passion by developing a strong understanding of natural systems. Now, she’s working with what she considers our most important resource: water. This spring, Christensen headed to an internship in Blanes, Spain, where she will be working with an ecologist to better understand stream life there.
Could you tell me about your internship in Spain?
I will be working with a professor who is concurrently working with my OSU adviser on the same project. I’m hoping to focus on more of the stream ecology aspect of the project while I’m there, do experiments, and hopefully get some data for which I can write my undergraduate thesis.
I’ve never been to Spain before, so I’m looking forward to being in a different country and culture to learn about the people there.
Can you talk about your research?
A tracer put into a stream can provide a quantifiable value of what is biologically going on inside of it. Right now, it’s actually challenging to get an accurate measurement on stream metabolism for a number of reasons.
How did you learn about an opportunity like this?
I’m in the Honors College, and part of getting your Honors degree is doing an undergraduate thesis. I knew I was interested in water and ecologic systems, so I went to my adviser Dr. Haggerty and asked if there was anyone with a research opportunity. He said, “I have a project that you might be interested in,” and I started working with him.
Are you being helped financially to go to Spain?
My professor got an NSF (National Science Foundation) grant, and part of that grant was having money to be able to send an undergraduate student to Spain. I also received funding from URISC, a research program that supports OSU, as well as funding from the Geoscience department to help pay for the internship.
What do you hope to get out of this internship?
Primarily, I’m doing this to learn more about stream ecology and ecology in general. Hopefully I’ll be able to learn about the processes of these streams, which you really can’t get in a classroom setting. That hands-on experience is the best way to learn about things.
Do you have any suggestions for other students in finding these kinds of opportunities?
A lot of what it takes is just going out there and asking questions. The hardest part was literally walking into Dr. Haggerty’s office the first day and asking him for work. saying, “Hi, this is what I’m interested in. I know that this is your specialty. Is there any way that we can get a project worked out?” And he told me that if I worked really hard and showed investment in the project, that it could be an incredible opportunity.
More often than not, the professors are more than happy to help any student.
What are your personal goals for the future?
I’d really like to go on and study hydrology in grad school, and possibly go on to become a professional hydrologist.
This project might actually morph into a Master’s thesis for me, depending on just how all the pieces fit together, so I may try to go here. I may go away, but I’m just interested in the world of water.
I hope this allows me to network with other people from the scientific community, and possibly open up other doors in other resources and opportunities possible for additional internships, or possible job opportunities and grad school opportunities.