Rebecca Lopez-Anido ‘21 is a laboratory research assistant at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. During her time at Wesleyan, Rebecca was a research assistant in the Chernoff Lab and a recipient of a 2020 COE Summer Research Fellowship. She graduated with a BA in biology and environmental studies.
Tell us about what seems to be your lifelong interest in marine biology. What sparked that interest?
My passion revolves around learning more about the developmental and evolutionary biology of marine invertebrates. Growing up in rural Maine ignited my curiosity for biology. I still remember the first time I was separated from the rocky coastline during a school field trip. Tucked into an oversized yellow life vest, I waddled onboard a fishing boat, where a fisherman presented us with all sorts of marine organisms, from slimy sea cucumbers to grumpy green crabs. I was fascinated by these strange creatures and even more enthralled by their abilities to prosper in the ocean. I became eager to learn more about them. How do they develop? How did they evolve? I’m fascinated by the wide assortment of animals living in our oceans. From their elaborate abilities to coexist with each other to their marvelously unique body-plans, marine invertebrates can reveal so much to us. I aspire to uncover the developmental basis underlying the rich diversity of marine invertebrates and the evolution of their novel traits.
Did you complete a senior thesis or capstone experience at Wesleyan?
Yes! My honors thesis, titled “Shifting Transcriptomes in Changing Waters: Ocean Change Consequences on American Lobsters in the Gulf of Maine,” explored the impact of ocean warming on developing American lobsters at the molecular level. For my project, I collaborated with Dr. Heather Hamlin and Dr. Amalia Harrington at the University of Maine to examine how exposure to predicted future Gulf of Maine warming scenarios alters the portion of the postlarval lobster genome that is transcribed from DNA into RNA (the transcriptome).
Tell us about your current position at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and how your environmental studies linked major influenced your post-Wes path.
I am a research assistant in the Lyons lab where I am involved in multiple projects investigating the evolution and development of echinoderms and mollusks. One of the projects I am working on seeks to uncover the evolution of biomineralization by studying shell development in the slipper snail Crepidula atrasoela.
The ENVS major inspired me to look for interdisciplinary research experiences that would help me grow as a scientist. My ENVS coursework at Wesleyan taught me to approach challenging questions with curiosity and to communicate my science more effectively. The ENVS major instilled in me the value of science communication and how essential it is for environmental and social progress. Additionally, the experiences I gained through the COE Summer Research Fellowship Program led me to where I am now: a research assistant at one of the best marine biology institutions in the world.
What advice would you give current Wes students considering the environmental studies major or minor?
The ENVS faculty are wonderful mentors with a wealth of knowledge and experience that they are more than happy to share. I highly recommend reaching out to your ENVS professors and going to their office hours. It is a tight-knit community and the professors truly care about your learning and self-growth.