Junior Student Takes Lead in Spider Research

Junior biology major Sophie Crinion is not afraid of spiders. In fact, her work on green lynx spiders has her performing field research that few undergraduates get to do, and she’s on the cusp of publication in a major journal as well.

Crinion’s work is the kind of hands-on experience that students at LMU can be exposed to. She says she’s developing the skills that will help prepare her for medical school and her future career.

“I’ve been able to see all sides of research at LMU, from working in the field collecting spiders, to being in the lab and analyzing the data, to the ‘aha’ moment when everything comes together,” Crinion said. “My experience has been a culmination of all the steps to becoming a researcher.”

Under the guidance of biology professor Martin Ramirez, Crinion’s first research project investigated how the green lynx spiders’ reproductive tactics change across the seasons.

Her research showed that the spiders’ “relative clutch mass” – an indicator of how much energy a female invests in her offspring – is much higher in the second half of the mating season. Crinion reported her findings as the lead author on a paper currently in peer review for the Journal of Arachnology.

“It is extremely rare for an undergraduate student to be the first author on a paper and to be involved at this level of research,” Ramirez said. “I think it really speaks to the university’s commitment to undergraduate research.”

Crinion’s current work focuses on changes in insect populations and spider fitness in a burn area on Santa Catalina Island. She received a grant from the Southern California Academy of Sciences and several awards from LMU to continue in her research. After graduating, she plans to attend medical school and one day work with the nonprofit Doctors Without Borders.

In the mean time, she’s excited about the support that LMU and her professor provided for her research. “Professor Ramirez had a lot of faith in me and allowed me to take control of the research,” Crinion said. “Also, her name is on the paper. That shows a big level of trust, which I really appreciate.”