GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 30-5
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


HEIM, Noel A., Department of Geological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, SALTZMAN, Jennifer, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, Stanford Univeristy, Mitchell Building, 397 Panama Mall, Stanford, CA 94305 and PAYNE, Jonathan L., Geological Sciences, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305

With ten high school aged interns, we analyzed a dataset of marine animal body sizes and drafted a scientific paper explaining evolutionary trends in marine animal body size. During the summer of 2018, we ran an eight-week research internship program using a database that has been complied mostly by high school interns over the last 10 years. The main learning outcomes were students being able to critically read a scientific paper; formulate and test a paleontological hypothesis; write scientific prose; conduct basic statistical analyses; write code to conduct analyses and generate figures; and discuss the basic biology of major marine invertebrate fossils.

Statistics and coding were taught through tutorials that explained concepts, provided examples, and asked students to answer questions and write their own code. Over the course of the summer, interns read and discussed two peer-reviewed papers per week. After reading papers individually, students discussed the papers in groups of no more than four students. Students also read a popular science book on the biology of body size where pairs of students led discussions of each chapter. All program activities are archived on GitHub (

For the research portion of the program, interns worked in pairs to complete original scientific analyses on an assigned part of the overall project. By the end of the summer, each pair produced a set of publication-quality figures and wrote the Methods, Results, and Discussion sections for their part of the project. Students improved their writing and figure formatting through multiple rounds of peer-review as well as review and feedback from the mentor.

We are currently in the processes of combining the student figures and writing into a single manuscript. The summer interns will be coauthors on the submitted manuscript and will participate in the revision process. Including students as co-authors and keeping them engaged through the peer-review process will give them deep insights into the peer-review process, which is important for informed citizens to understand.