When I moved to San Diego, I had the opportunity to return to my studies to pursue my first Bachelor's degree at San Diego Mesa College. During my last year before the transfer, I had the opportunity to intern with the Disturbance Hydrology Lab (DHL) at San Diego State University and develop my undergraduate research under the mentorship of Dr. Kinoshita and graduate student, Danielle Hunt.
The main goal of my project was to collect soil samples and measure soil infiltration of Alvarado Creek (Del Cerro study site) on the field and at the laboratory. This research experience allowed me to amplify my studies on specific topics within my field, like geomorphology, hydrogeology, and pedology. My work on soil infiltration rates at Alvarado Creek investigated infiltration based on four different variables: soil type, vegetation, slope, and geomorphic features like secondary channels. Also, we were able to evaluate a sampling methodology to perform infiltration tests in the laboratory and save our group some time! We successfully found similar infiltration measurements between field data and laboratory data, which included the use of copper pipes to store the cores. We also found that infiltration rates were higher in high slope areas and in vegetated areas.
This internship improved many of my skills. First, I was able to study more about the urban riverine system and its disturbances. I learned the importance and emergency of modeling this type of watershed since it is crucial for the ecosystem and urban life. I also learned how the DHL is working to model Alvarado Creek after disturbances such as urban fire and restoration.
During the process of choosing the scope of the research, developing a hypothesis, and designing the field and lab experiments, I had contact with different journals and articles that improved my knowledge within the Earth science system and amplified my list of references for future research. I learned how to survey and measure stream channel topography , and perform the pebble counts as an estimate of streambed material. I got experience with new field equipment, such as the Mini Disk Infiltrometer (MDI; used to measure infiltration rates in my research) and GPS. I utilized Google Satellite imagery and Geographic Information System (GIS) to identify and map 13 new sites. These infiltration measurements from 2022 in Alvarado Creek augment previous studies conducted by the lab.
I'm happy about this opportunity. It was an essential experience outside of the classroom (and the regular laboratory classes), where I developed and tested a multidisciplinary hypothesis. It was gratifying to go out during the weekends for field reconnaissance, sampling, data collection, and also spend afternoons in the laboratory!
During data collection, I used my field experience to cover a significant portion of the creek successfully. Still, I also gained new skills like sampling cores and conducting infiltration tests using the MDI.
During data analysis, I improved my spreadsheet skills to create charts and calculate the hydraulic conductivity of the collected samples for loamy sand and sandy loam conditions.
I also learned how to design a poster and write an abstract for the Student Research Symposium 2022 (one of this project's most significant achievements). During the preparation for my presentation, I practiced my writing, verbal, and communication skills. The opportunity to present the research at a symposium where I interacted with many students and professors was a huge step towards my career goals in the research industry. Having contact with different researchers and getting feedback on my work was very significant, and it made me feel more interested in science and research.
About the authors
Follow the adventures and reflections from the DHL undergraduate student interns and research assistants!