Samantha L. Bickel
Advisor: Kam Tang
B.A. Biology and Mathematics, Carthage College
M.S. Marine Science, College of William & Mary
My doctoral research focuses on interactions between bacteria and zooplankton. Zooplankton are microscopic animals that live in the water column and are a integral link between primary producers like phytoplankton and larger animals, like fish. Zooplankton can support large bacterial populations on their external and internal surfaces, much like how humans have bacteria on our skin and in our guts, and a number of these bacteria can be pathogenic or important in biogeochemical cycles. I’m investigating how the size and type of zooplankton as well as environmental variables such as temperature, salinity and nutrients can influence the number and types of bacteria living on or in the zooplankton.
I became interested in aquatic sciences in college when I worked on a project looking at the impacts of an obsolete landfill on the insect communities of surrounding streams. I was first introduced to zooplankton during an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates with Professor Rudi Strickler at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Great Lakes WATER Institute, and there has been no turning back. Since then, I’ve investigated mate searching strategies utilized by zooplankton, impacts of invasive zooplankton in the Great Lakes, zooplankton death caused by boat-generated turbulence and the decomposition of zooplankton carcasses.
I’m excited to be participating in the GK-12 program for a number of reasons. First of all I hope to be able to learn how to more effectively communicate my research and science in general to the general public. Perhaps more importantly, however, the GK 12 fellowship affords me the opportunity to share all the amazingly cool topics that can be explored through science, and hopefully pique the interests of a few students who may have previously thought that science wasn’t for them.