The final semester…pre-pandemic

*Sometimes I use affiliate links in my content. This won’t cost you anything and will not harm our mother earth. I just might get some funding to go toward filling my logbook and sharing more with you.

In the beginning of 2020, I was getting ready to begin my last semester at Juniata College. Looking back on my short semester, it is absolutely insane at how much I was able to do…

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Cheerleading…last season

I arrived onto campus early for some pre-season training with my team for basketball season. It was definitely bittersweet to face the fact that I was graduating and not going to be cheering anymore.

But I am so happy that I was able to have this experience!

Classes

For my last semester, I took a lighter load than usual and very practical classes. I was taking Advanced GIS, doing independent research for credit, Water Resources II (hydraulic modeling with HEC-RAS), and Quantitative Ecology (statistics with R).

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Conferences!

Luckily, I had very supportive professors and I was able to participate in a bunch of conferences outside of the classroom.

Delaware Wetlands

The last week of January, I drove to Wilmington, DE to present at the Delaware Wetlands conference. It was an awesome event because I got to see one of my mentors, National Estuarine Research Reserve employees, and some Juniata College alumni. There were amazing talks from all different aspects of wetland conservation.

During the meeting, I had the opportunity to go to the Russell Peterson Wildlife Refuge/DuPont Environmental Education Center on the Christina River, where I learned about their restoration and education efforts.

I also got to catch up with one of my best friends from high school!

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American Fisheries Society

Then, on February 6th and 7th, Juniata College hosted the Pennsylvania American Fisheries Society (AFS) Chapter’s 2020 Technical Meeting. One of our professors at Juniata in the Environmental Science Department, Dr. George Merovich, is the President Elect for the PA AFS Chapter and helped plan this meeting. In addition, Dr. Merovich is the advisor for our student chapter on campus that I served as treasurer for this year.

I was excited to be able to participate in the meeting by presenting my research from my Hollings internship. The first day was full of speakers and research presentations from professionals, academics, and students. After my class was over that morning, I headed over to Ellis Ballroom to begin soaking up information. I walked in when Marc L. Yergin from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History was presenting on freshwater sponges.


My presentation was after lunch. I have had a lot of practice presenting since I have given this same presentation many times prior, but I was nervous to present in front of two of my professors and my friends. I went up there and gave one of my best presentations ever. I enjoyed the experience and the audience had great questions at the end.

That evening, the poster session was from 6pm-9pm. I went back to the meeting late because I had cheerleading practice. I gobbled up my dinner and ran up to the ballroom to socialize and enjoy the posters. At the end of the evening, they began announcing student awards. When announcing best student presentation, the chapter President, Dr. Greg Moyer, asked, “Is Letourneau still here?” and my eyes grew big. That was the LAST thing I was expecting. There I was accepting an award, a little sweaty, in my practice clothes, looking completely unprofessional. I apologized profusely and they assured me it was alright and that my award was well deserved. I was floored by the circumstances, but honored that I was chosen.

Accepting the award from Dr. Greg Moyer

The next day, participants had the choice of 4 different workshops in the morning. I attended the workshops: “Begin using R” and “Cyprinid ID”. Not only were these informative, but I also was able to network with other participants. All in all, it was a successful meeting and I am humbled I was able to attend and receive such an honor.

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Ocean Sciences Meeting

Lastly, on February 16th, I got on a plane and flew to San Diego for the Ocean Sciences Meeting. I went to present a poster on my research from my Hollings internship, network with professionals, and learn about potential career opportunities.

My poster presentation was fun and I got some great questions. I also ordered a fabric version of my poster for easier travel and I HIGHLY recommend it!!!

One of my highlights of the conference was when I attended the COMPASS Town Hall. COMPASS, which originally stood for “Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea”, was co-founded by my marine science idol, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, former administrator of NOAA. COMPASS focuses on effective science communication, which has become a strong passion of mine. This was my 2nd time listening to Dr. Lubchenco talk and I actually was able to nervously introduce myself this time.

I also had the opportunity to meet a woman who I had no idea was everything I want to be and more. Dr. Dawn Wright is the Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), which is the leading Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software and data science company. GIS might look familar if you have been reading my blogs. That is because I have learned how to use GIS in my courses and absolutely love it.

And my Story Map I made last summer? That was made using GIS software and web-applications!

I was able to talk to Dr. Wright and discuss my project with her. She proceeded to give me her business card and since then I have actually shared my project with her via email.

Dr. Lubchenco (far right) and Dr. Wright (to the left of Dr. Lubchenco)

Definitely the highlight of my conference experience!!

I also got to see a bunch of my friends from study abroad, the Hollings Scholarship Program, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Hollings Scholars at OSM!

In addition, I took advantage of the area and I adventured to Oceanside to run with the big dogs and the La Jolla area to do some tide pooling.

And with all these pretty sites, I unfortunately saw a bird playing with some trash 😦

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Senior Dinner

Before spring break rolled around, the senior class had our annual senior dinner. Little did we know that it was going to be the last time we celebrated in person, all together.

Juniata senior cheerleaders put a bow in our class time capsule and we all signed it.

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Spring Break

Before we became aware of the pandemic and COVID-19 broke, the Juniata Scuba Diving club planned a trip down to Florida to go camping and diving. When the trip rolled around, there were no positive cases in the areas we were planning to go to, so we were still able to continue our descent. Luckily, we were able to complete our trip entirely, but we definitely washed our hands a lot.

There were only a few of us this year, including the residential director at the Raystown Field Station, but we had fun and were able to do a lot of dives.

We began at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park in the Tampa area and dove at Ginnie Springs. This was my first freshwater dive and we got to go down into a cave.

On our off day, we went to the Florida Aquarium. One of the highlights was that the aquarium was hosting a Washed Ashore exhibit, in which art is built with plastic debris from coastal clean ups. In December at AGU, I had met someone who was part of this project and seeing it in actions was very neat!

Then, we went to enjoy the Clearwater Beach!

We then traveled down to Miami and camped at Larry and Penny Thompson Memorial Park.

The next few days, we did 5 dives total in Key Largo, including one night dive!

We dove at:

We saw some cool stuff including a pod of dolphins, a HUGE grouper, turtles, nurse sharks, barracuda, parrot fish, lobster, moray eel, and MORE.

It was SO COOL! I have not gone through my dive footage yet…I will soon I promise.

While we were down in the Keys, we also ate some yummy key lime pie.

I really loved this trip. Not only was I able to enjoy the recreational side of scuba diving, but I was able to improve my own skills and learn more about other dive opportunities available.

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Then we drove back to campus, leaving paradise behind…

While we were on the trip is when Juniata College announced they were extending Spring Break due to COVID-19. So we knew when we got back that we had to then go home but the worst part of drive home is that we drove through snow.

What happened next will be a whole new post, but you likely already know… #GraduatedInAPandemic

Be back soon with more information about that!

Conferences, Classes, & Cheerleading: Senior Year

*Sometimes I use affiliate links in my content. This won’t cost you anything and will not harm our mother earth. I just might get some funding to go toward filling my logbook and sharing more with you.

As my summer ended, my school year began. I was nervous about going back to living on campus since I had just spent the year away, at the field station and then abroad on the Galapagos. Although I spent the summer in Virginia, readjusting to a life on campus as a college student again is another change. I have mentioned this before, but reverse culture shock is definitely real. I am lucky to have had a lot of support on campus with this adjustment.

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Tour Guide Training

My experience back onto campus began with tour guide training. Every year, I have to participate in this training even though I have been a tour guide since sophomore year. Many things on campus change over the summer and it is important to stay up to date. However, when you are off campus for as long as I was and there are major curriculum changes, all day training about campus is a little overwhelming. I made it through and had the opportunity to enjoy my new apartment with one of my roommates and friends.

Cheerleading

Shortly after, I had my last preseason for football cheerleading. This is a few days of cheerleading ALL day. We also did some team bonding like our annual scavenger hunt and tie dying!

Classes Begin

Classes began a few days later. It was my very last fall semester at Juniata! This semester was overwhelming and completely different. Not only did I return from a year off campus but I also experienced having roommates for the first time and starting a new job position.

My classes this semester included Hispanic Culture in Film, Environmental Geology & Lab, Conservation Biology, and Global Environmental Issues. I also took a credit of research to work on my project from my internship from over the summer. I really enjoyed taking geology and I highly suggest it to everyone. It is so important to understand the building blocks of our earth, literally!

Working Girl

I began working in admissions as a freshman as Student Assistant for an admission counselor. I worked my way up to Tour Guide and now this year, I began my position as an Assistant Admission Counselor. I assist the admission counselors by interviewing students who visit Juniata, informing families about Juniata financial and application details, and assisting during open houses. This position is more money but also allows me to do one of the things I love to do most: get to know people. I get to talk about the place I love but also understand student’s backgrounds and why they interested in Juniata. I love being a professional in the office.

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Conferences

Wyoming: The Cowboy State

After my study abroad semester, I became part of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Alumni Network (after completing the program which provided me with a scholarship to go abroad). As part of this network, I was invited to the U.S. Future Leaders Topical Seminar: Energy and Natural Resources in Laramie, WY. So I missed the 2nd week of my classes and went to Laramie!

These few days were hosted at University of Wyoming (UW). Here are some highlights! One of our speakers included a Senior Executive at Exxon Mobil Corporation and he sat at my dinner table with his wife. I toured the High Bay Research Facility, which aims to improve the efficiency of the extraction of oil and natural gas resources. I also visited the High Plains Wind Farm as part of Rocky Mountain Power, learning about how wind power is used in Wyoming and in surrounding states!

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Down South to Charleston

In November, I traveled down to Charleston, South Carolina for the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) Association Annual Meeting. I was able to go because of my internship last summer at the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia. At the meeting, I had the opportunity to be in the same room as almost all the staff from each of the 29 different NERRs. The networking I was able to do was phenomenal. I also got to catch up with other Hollings interns that I met through the program.

Here are the highlights!

I began with a Climate Change Communication workshop by the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI). This was a super awesome workshop backed by research. The next day I sat with the Education Sector for the morning to discuss internships and putting diversity, equity, and inclusion in practice. We then went to the South Carolina Aquarium to investigate interpretive design best practices for exhibits at visitor centers. This included touring and understanding the construction of their newest exhibit about their turtle hospital. They also gave us extra time to enjoy the rest of the aquarium!

That evening, I presented my research in a poster format and got to interact with many people from all over the reserve system. It was super fun to also have my mentors there for support!

I also got to try a Peace Pie!!

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San Francisco days, San Francisco nights

My last conference of the semester was the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2019 in San Francisco. I roomed with one of my friends I met through the Hollings Scholarship and got to see many more of my friends while I was there. I presented my first oral presentation about my project at a large conference. It was an incredible experience and I was glad to be part of it.

I also attended many different presentations, visited a wide variety of posters, and participated in great science communication workshops.

One of my favorite ones was about marine debris and the plastic problem. We learned about plastic found on the coasts and the origin of the mass of it. We also learned how different programs such as Washed Ashore, are using their debris from clean ups to build plastic sculptures and putting them in public spaces to create conversation. During the workshop, we got to make our own designs with actual plastic pieces from the clean ups. Not only is this promoting environmental consciousness, but it is also adding the art literacy component. When we created our own designs, we focus on colors, or types of plastics.

What are some origins of the masses of plastics in the ocean?

  • Landbased/Recreational Activities (beach toys, plastic bottles, etc)
  • Commercial Fishing (traps and nets left in the ocean)
  • Container Spills (large shipments of goods such as hockey gloves, dolls, or shoes)

Afterwards, I actually had lunch with the presenter and got some career advice from him!

I also got to see my mentor from my internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and more people from my scholarship program!

AND I saw one of my friends (huge surprise) from study abroad!!!!

We explored San Francisco in the evenings after a day full of taking in all the science.

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End of Football Cheerleading

In the midst of all of this, I also had my last game cheering for football. I will miss being on the sidelines so much!

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Last Traditions/Moments on Campus & in Huntingdon

I also had my last of many traditions and favorite activities on Juniata’s campus and in Huntingdon

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Mountain Day

There’s nothing quite like having class cancelled, but Mountain Day is the epitome of cancelled classes. This annual tradition is one of my favorites and began in the late 1880s. On this day, classes are cancelled with no prior notice. The saying on campus is “Mountain Day is always tomorrow”.

On Mountain Day, students are given the opportunity to spend the day at Raystown Lake to enjoy a picnic, swimming, water sports, crafts, yard games, and inflatables. There are usually surprise raffles and treats. This year we had FREE Rita’s Italian Ice!

The scenery is picturesque. Hammocks swing from trees, laughter roars from the waterside, students are falling off kayaks, and speakers sing anthems of a fun day. My favorite part is that faculty and staff are invited. Professors engage in conversation with barefoot students, who insist on petting every dog in sight.

After lunch, each class battles in tug-o-war until the strongest group takes on the faculty and staff. In the finale, we brought in many seniors who were nervous to join but were persuaded by our camaraderie; we barely had enough rope for everyone to hold on. As a proud member of the class of 2020, I would like to announce that we won!

This year, Mountain Day was a total surprise for me and many others. It was a great day with the Juniata community including faculty, staff, and students. Only Juniatians really understand the magic of Mountain Day, everyone else is just insanely jealous because they want their classes cancelled.

But this day is much more than that.

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Special Olympics

Every year Juniata College hosts the Special Olympics Central Pennsylvania Fall Sectional. On this day, our campus becomes the stage for athletic excellence and perseverance. Athletes from over 20 central Pennsylvania counties come together to show off their abilities. These athletes work extremely hard for this day, and are full of excitement upon arrival.

I look forward to this event every year. As a cheerleader, we participate in the opening ceremony events by greeting athletes, cheering them on, and doing a short performance. We also volunteer at various stations throughout the day. Although we arrive early in the morning, I keep my energy high and my smile bright. These athletes give their 100% and they deserve my 100%.

I love being able to be part of this exciting moment and support others in their journey to success. No matter who someone is or what obstacles they might face, they deserve the utmost respect for their hard work and achievements.

Special Olympics International has started “The Revolution is Inclusion” campaign to create a fully inclusive world.

Take the pledge Inclusion Pledge here: https://jointherevolution.org/

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Study Abroad Fair

I got to represent the Galapagos semester at our study abroad fair on campus! I also got to hang out with a friend who was studying abroad at Juniata and my friend who went abroad with me.

Trough Creek State Park

My family took my friend, who was spending a semester at Juniata from York, UK, to enjoy the local central PA nature at Trough Creek State Park!

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Hydrilla Study on Raystown Lake

When I was at the field station, I got to assist with a study of invasive hydrilla on Raystown Lake. This year, I got to help again!!! It was a full day of fun, sampling the bottom of the lake.

Raystown Field Station Alumni Retreat

Only 4 of us remained on campus since our semester at the field station was mostly seniors. So we decided to rent out Grove Farm, have a campfire, and reminesce on our good ole days at the lake without annoying anyone else about it.

The next morning we went down to the lake to take a picture with our RD, John, and his mighty sidekick, Margo.

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Madrigal

We have a dance and dinner at the end of our fall semester. It was quite fun this year with my roommates and friends!

Senior Year

I am of course writing this post on the day we found out we are not returning to classes on campus and will be learning remotely until the end of the semester. I do not want to get too sappy until my next post about the spring semester. However, I do have to say….I wish I would have soaked in some more of Juniata and my memories during my fall semester knowing now that it is all over.

I will always be a Juniatian.