Yes, that's right, I am in CALIFORNIAAAAAA!!!!
I arrived in San Fran almost two weeks ago Monday and already have started to assimilate to life as a west-coaster and as a city-slicker. Let me tell you, it's been quite the culture shock, especially coming from Bonaire, where life was so relaxed and chill. I'm living in an apartment in the southern part of the city, just south of SFSU's main campus. I'm living with three other girls on the program and we've hit it off so well! The area's pretty quiet and far from downtown but it's nice and there's even a courtyard behind our place.
The first week was an orientation where all of us students, several research mentors and TAs went on trips to several intertidal zones and saw a bunch of model organisms' embryos under the microscope. This was to introduce us to the theme of the program which is all about understanding the impact of environmental factors on the evolution and development of organisms. After many early mornings and long days spent looking at tunicates, frog embryos, and tiny sea stars (they were so small they looked like sprinkles!), it was finally the weekend!
Heather, one of my roommates, documented my first encounter with the Pacific Ocean! It's COLD! (Photo credit: Heather Schneider).
Pillar Point, one of the sites we visited to get a sense of the intertidal zones of the coast. There's also a little sign there that says something about a tsunami warning - talk about scary!!!
What we found in the tide pools. Here you see mussels and tons of different algae.
We walked out along this rocky, algae-y, intertidal area almost to those large rocks in the background. This area differs so much from the salt marshes of New England because it has so many intertidal species; we saw at least three species of starfish (one had at least 20 arms), 10 species of algae, two species of sea anemones, and even a harbor seal!
My roomies and I decided to spend our weekend days exploring the city. The weather was pretty warm (but nothing like Bonaire...sigh) and sunny, which apparently is a rarity for San Francisco considering the typical "June Gloom" of fog. On Saturday, we hit the MUNI (public transit) and went downtown. After some exploration and many hills (my legs died) we arrived at Pier 39. This is your standard boardwalk lined with seafood restaurants, tourist shops and SEA LIONS. That's right, California sea lions. They were sunbathing on several docks by the pier. I guess they are typically found there except for a stretch of time several years ago when they weren't. But they returned! We spent a good while just watching them, observing the alpha males surrounded by their harem of females, and just marveling at how cute they are! After that, we continued up the road, got San Francisco's famous Mitchell's ice cream, and eventually arrived at Giradelli square where we got free chocolate samples! Vicky, you would have been in chocolate heaven here!! It's like Sweenor's but five million times more chocolately! On Sunday we took the bus to the Haight Street Fair which was in an area typically inhabited by hippies and totally awesome! There were so many street vendors, tasty foods, and funky-dressing characters. We all got some delicious chicken enchiladas and moseyed with the locals, taking in all of the culture.
Cable car! Riding one of these bad boys is on my San Fran bucket list.
So. Many. Hills.
I tried looking for Mrs. Doubtfire, Mia Thermopolis, Raven Baxter, and the Tanners, but to no avail.
Did I mention how many hills there are?
Da roomies at Pier 39. From left to right there's India, Abby, and Heather. I am looking forward to many more adventures spent with these lovely ladies all around the city! (Photo credit: H. Schneider).
We just HAD to get a picture with the sea lion sculpture. Photo credit: H. Schneider).
SEA LIONS!!!!!!!!! (Photo credit: H. Schneider).
The Haight Streetfair. So many people!!! (Photo credit: H. Schneider).
Just one of the incredibly colorful and awesome outfits of that day. (Photo credit: H. Schneider).
Well, that's San Fran for ya! (Photo credit: H. Schneider).
Ok, so enough of the fun and games of last weekend... This past week we began working in our respective labs. Each student is working on a different project either at the SFSU main campus in the Biology Department or at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies which is across the Golden Gate Bridge in Tiburon. I'm at RTC and it takes 45 minutes to an hour to commute out there. It's a complex of old buildings (from like WWII) nestled within a hill overlooking the bay. Every time I get there I stop and look at the water and the mountains (I call them mountains but apparently they're just hills) across the bay and am in awe that this is my summer. It's hard to explain exactly what RTC looks like so my next blog entry will include pictures and descriptions, I promise! I've begun working on a project looking at the genetic diversity of several invasive copepod species (copepods are a kind of zooplankton for all of you non-science peoples). I've gotten to combine some old skills with several new ones. Everyone in my lab (and at RTC, for that matter) is super nice and laid-back, yet so hardworking. It's refreshing to be in an environment of such intelligent and passionate people who care about environmental issues and address them in practical and pioneering ways. I just know I'm going to learn so much this summer and look forward to many adventures embarked on in the bay area.
Until next time,
Catie (I haven't gone diving yet, so I feel a little distanced from my mermaid self. Not to worry, I have found some passionate divers out here and we're planning a trip soon!)