Elia Betschen


a. What is your background? Where are you from? What do you study? What are you most interested in, scientifically?

I am from Switzerland and I come from a biology background. I graduated this last spring with a Bachelor’s in Biology. Currently I find myself most interested in climate change, environmental science, ecology and conservation.

b. Give us a brief summary of your internship project. What is the study system? Primary research questions? With whom are you working?

My internship is axed towards field work assisting on various projects that need an intern. Some of these projects I worked on were for PhD’s, one was for a global experiment, and some were for long term research run by the university. In this way, I mostly get to work with PhD students and Post-Doc’s. The research is on ecological and environmental change. It aims to understand the natural variability of ecosystems, how and why they change. It also looks at impact of human activity on these ecosystems. There are a lot of experimental/observational field and laboratory studies. One of the most impressive in my opinion is where they transplanted blocks of earth from high to low elevation to simulate climate change, and moved blocks from low to high elevation to see how the plants will interact in a future were the low elevation plants colonize alpine sites due to a warmer climate.

c. What is your role in the research team in terms of tasks and responsibilities, and how do these relate to the aims of the research project?

My role is mostly to assist with various tasks on the field. Some of these include doing identifications , collecting samples (seeds for example), taking notes, sometimes even giving input on decisions. These tasks help collect data quicker and more efficiently and overall carry out the experiment as well as possible.

d. What were your specific goals for the upcoming internship? These can be both scientific and personal. Are you meeting, or did you (if the internship is complete) accomplish your goals? Please explain with specific examples if possible.

I want to get first-hand experience in a lab and learn how research is done within a university. I wanted to learn the different aspects of field work and how an idea or question translates into methods, then data collection to a published paper.
In my opinion I reached and exceeded my goals. That is a big part from the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to encounter. Thanks to their patience they answered my numerous questions. I also realized the different things to take into consideration while collecting data. I kept some notes that will be useful in the future.

e. What skills or knowledge from your prior experience and education did you find useful during this internship? Did you develop any new skills or knowledge? Please explain.

I found that having a semester focused on botany and plant identification made me more familiar with the plants around me. Additionally, having done some biostatistics (R) and a brief overview of methodology such as factorial design, helped me understand the experiments better and this transition I mentioned before from idea to methods to data collection…
One skill I have gained is becoming more resistant to the cold. All jokes aside, I gained a lot of tips and advice about how to conduct research. This has helped me as I am planning on doing a PhD.
For example, sometimes it is better to test out a protocol beforehand because sometimes there are simpler ways to do things that can only be realized while out in the field.

f. How has the COVID19 pandemic altered your plans or your experience during this internship?

It altered my plans in a good way as I discovered this internship because of covid, and I am really grateful because it has been an amazing experience. The only difference in my experience is there are very few interns with me here and one of our activities has been cancelled due to Covid. Despite this IAESTE Bergen and IAESTE Norway has done a wonderful job to continue to offer weekend activities for us interns.

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