How are your “online” classes?

*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.

Brady Brunch…class edition
Advertisements

Sigh…online classes…the end of my college career and they were one of the most popular topics of conversation other than COVID-19 the past few months…

While on my spring break trip to Florida, I found out that Juniata College was going to take an extended break and start virtual classes until the beginning of April in hopes that all of this would blow over. When we returned, I packed up things from my apartment that I thought I would need for the next few weeks.

One week later, on March 17th, we received an email that not surprisingly, Juniata was going to transition to remote learning for the remainder of the semester. Although this was not much of a surprise, it was still not easy to come to terms with. I moved out of my apartment the following week. ☹️

Advertisements

Transition Online

Now, I would be failing my coach if I did not make this point on my blog. What we did was “emergency remote teaching” and NOT online classes. Online courses take a lot of planning, they integrate various methodologies for teaching, and implement multiple platforms or activities for interacting. Although online classes exist in many higher education institutions, such as Juniata, they are only utilized by some subjects or educators for certain classes. Therefore, a transition to EVERY class with EVERY professor is a drastic change and cannot be compared to true online education. Huge shout out to Justine Black, Juniata’s Director of Digital Learning and my coach, for being a leader in making this remote instruction possible!!!

Advertisements

Juniata Online: an unofficial look inside with 63 anonymous survey participants

Disclaimer: this is not a real study…just me…being curious. Therefore, proper sampling technique and etiquette was NOT followed. I paraphrased all results but if you were one of my respondents and do not want something you said on here, let me know and I will remove it!

I would like to say I think that overall my professors did an incredible job meeting students needs and providing quality education. Students were also given the flexibility to change their courses to pass/no pass. However, I was not taking many courses and wanted to know how my peers were feeling.

I did a survey halfway through this experience to see how other students felt. This gave me a new feeling of connection because as a student body, we had lost our camaraderie. I was no longer sitting in the dining hall listening to the complaints or victories from my friends, teammates, or even the table I was eavesdropping on because lets be honest, we all do it at least once.

I received 63 responses out of the potential ~1,500 students and I asked 8 questions, including free response. So this really is only a small portion of what really happened and the school has received its own survey data since, but like I said, I needed that connections with my peers.

Advertisements

The Results

Have your professors been accommodating with attending classes and turning in assignments?

Roughly two-thirds said “yes” and one-third said “kinda”. Less than 5 respondents said “no”.

Most things went well: Majority of responses were positive. Most professors were incredibly understanding, allowing for flexibility with due dates and not giving penalties for late work. For students who could not connect with class via Zoom, professors provided recorded videos.

Some things could have improved: Some students did not find that their professors were being understanding and there was not much discussion about due date flexibility. One student found mandatory group work difficult to do in this situation and with slow WiFi. It was noted that as students, our living situation changed completely, which depending on the nature, could make finishing our courses more difficult. For example, taking care of siblings. Also, some students are essential employees and might have picked up more demanding work hours.

Someone even just noted that it was horrible, which I can infer as that the whole situation was just overall unsavory.

It is also important to note that students work differently. I personally prefer due dates because they keep me on track and some students need that structure to stay on task. However, some students may really just need more time because they have too much going on in their situation or even mentally. I think that it was difficult for professors to find the balance between being too strict and being too lenient.

“What Juniata faculty or staff have been the most helpful during this? What have they done?”

To name a few: Dr. Muth and Dr. Grant sent uplifting messages and fun science updates. Dr. Matter did his best to make a lab an online course. Dr. Amy Mathur helped her students by lightening their load and sending out weekly Huntingdon updates. Dr Weimer, Dr Worley, Dr Streb, Dr Kruse, Dr. Bennett, Dr. Poole, and Dr. Peters were all accommodating and reached out to students. Dr. Dunwoody and Dr. Gentile provided extensions when needed. Shannon Cotrell, Lauren Perow, and Dr. Sarah Jane DeHaas also all checked in on students. Bethany Benson got creative and sent her ceramic students a gray play dough recipe. Dr. Lynn Cockett involved students in navigating the new learning environment, asking for feedback to better accommodate students. Blair Cutright continued supporting students by helping make schedules for at home productivity. Kathy Baughman reached out to each of her classes and seniors individually to offer support.

Additional shout outs to: All ceramic professors, Tammy Stuber, Dr. Pletcher, Ryan Gibboney, Jared LaGroue, Jacoba Rock, Justine Black, Molly Thompson, Dr. John Bukowski, Dr. Welliver, Dr. Matt Powell, Dr. Keeney, Dean Damschroder, Dr. Johnson, Jon Cutright, Patty Klug, Dr. James Tuten, Dr. Barlow, and Provost Bowen.

Have your classes changed drastically?

About one-third said “yes”, half said “kinda”, and only about 20% said “no”. Majority of students had drastic changes in their courses.

Things that changed: There seemed to be a lack of a schedule. The amount of work to turn in changed, due to syllabus adjustments or lack of ability to perform tasks online. Classes became less hands on and there was no opportunity for field work. Asking questions during lectures became difficult and the quality of some lectures decreased. There was less group discussion. Some assignments became more time intensive, it felt like busy work, and there was more writing instead of presenting. Assessment formats were altered. Formats of entire classes changed. Final projects were removed or altered. It was noted that some professors did not hold classes and instead just gave assignments while corresponding with students through email. Software used in some courses changed completely due to lack of access at home. Many courses were also removed from their physical resources such as labs and studios. And overall, students felt less engaged.

Advertisements

What advice would you give a professor or a student in this situation?

“Be willing to answer questions over zoom, even if that means setting aside a discussion period outside zoom class periods.”

“Make a routine and stick to it.”

“Please understand our situations and how difficult it is to work at home. A lot of us don’t have desks even at home which means we have to work at kitchen tables/bedrooms, which doesn’t allow for very efficient studying.”

“Be prepared for problems because it is technology.”

“Be kind and understanding of one another and the positions that we’re in.”

“To be patient and understanding that everyone’s situation is unique.”

“Don’t overcompensate…focus on content, rather than additional materials.”

“Be patient! Everyone’s trying to figure out how to navigate this situation.”

“I would tell a student to plan their day as if they’re at campus. Don’t try to do too much in a day because it’s less likely you’ll do it. Break down your work on a Monday-Friday schedule like it would be at school. Find a quiet space where you can do your work and be patient with yourself.”

“Just keep pushing. Reach out when you need help. You are not alone.”

“Keep your head up and we’ll keep working together. It will be okay.”

“Focus on your mental health.”

“Prioritize self-care. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health and more important than schoolwork.”

“Always communicate with your professors they are here to help if you need it.”

“Be lenient but keep your students accountable. They need to still turn in homework, but this is a stressful time so maybe if it’s a day late you can still accept the homework for full credit.”

“Give each other some slack during these difficult times.”

“I know this isn’t ideal, but it’s a global pandemic please be understanding to the fact that this is completely unprecedented and nobody trust knows the correct course of action yet.”

Anything else you want to say about the switch to online classes? (other than this sucks)

“It’s sucks a lot.”

“It is very tough to stay focused being home; it’s very hard to stay motivated.”

“Though I do wish I was on campus, I think Juniata has done a great job with this adjustment because it is not easy and nobody was prepared for a situation like this.”

“Can’t wait to be back on campus.”

“This is the future. Get used to it.”

“It’s working out better than I thought it would, but it is definitely not equal to being taught in person.”

How are you socializing with friends from campus?

I wanted to add this question because I was curious as to how people are connecting with campus.

Conclusion:

Overall, it went pretty well. I mean it could have gone a lot worse, but I think we have built a resilient community at Juniata that was able to withstand the changes. Obviously, we hit some bumps in the road, but as many of my peers pointed out, no one really knew what was the right thing to do. In my opinion, Juniata did as well as or even better as many of the other institutions put in similar situations (from what I heard from friends and the internet).

Unprecedented and other overused adjectives…

This was definitely not ideal. The college responded as best as it could, we all did as best as we could. Given the circumstances, I am overall pleased with how the semester worked out, the performance of my professors, and myself.

I also hope this never has to happen again, so abruptly as it did.

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.

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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!

Advertisements

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!!

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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!

Advertisements

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

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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/

Advertisements

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!

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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.

Living on the enchanted islands: college student edition

*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.

Hola & Hello!

I am writing this post right before my last class here begins. It has been an amazing experience and incredibly life changing. I miss a lot of things about home, but I really do enjoy my life here a lot. I cannot believe I only have 3 more weeks left. Here’s a summary of my life here and special events!

Punta Carola
Advertisements

Everyday life (Vida diaria)

The island life is different. Island time is definitely a concept here, nothing is on time or has a definite schedule. Ecuadorian time is already behind, dinner at 6pm could mean anytime between 6pm and 8pm. So if you add being an island on top of that, well it might take you a whole afternoon to get what you need. There’s only a few areas where people can live here, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which is right on the water, and El Progreso, a town in the highlands. Everyone knows everyone, for the most part. You could tell a taxi “La casa de ____” and they could probably get you there. I live near a park with two soccer fields, a basketball court, and a new skate park. So I typically just say “Parque de Alegría”. However, I rarely even take a taxi.

View from where I live, you can see the ocean!
The view from the balcony at my house

Although it is a touristy area, it is still an island. Do not expect to be able to use credit or debit cards everywhere. Also, do not be surprised if you cannot find the hours stores or places are open. They open when they can but it might not be on a schedule and if it is, well, the locals already know what times. In addition, the few hours after lunch, most tour agencies and stores are not open. Lastly, there is only like two bars and one discoteca on the island. Social life is pretty small scale here. But the locals, who all know each other and most have grown up together, make the most of it.

My daily life here is pretty simple. I usually bike or walk to the university for class in the morning with my friend who lives in my neighborhood. Some students are lucky and live close by, but I live on the exact opposite side of town from the university. Even though the island is small, it is a 30 minute walk (unless you walk fast but it is HOT here so that is hard to do). At least it’s a beautiful place to walk around and you get exercise to start the morning! I was going to rent a bike for the whole 3 months I was here but one of my program coordinators on the island had a bike she was not using that I could borrow. I just had to take it to the bike shop and the shop owner fixed it for free. He is a really nice man and is always happy to help.

The Galapagos Academic Institute for Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) campus is right across from one of the most accessible beaches, Playa Mann. It is convenient because after class you can sit on the beach and sometimes the WiFi can reach out there. There is a nice space for students to do homework and enjoy the view above the classrooms in the building. There is also a balcony with outdoor seating. One thing that is different about Ecuador and the Galapagos is that open air is much more common. Especially in Quito, the weather is so temperate that windows and doors can be open comfortably and you do not need air conditioning. In the Galapagos, it is preferable to have windows and doors open, unless you have air conditioning. It is somewhat rare to have it, especially in stores, houses, and restaurants. However, one bread shop, the discoteca, our classrooms, and some host families have it. Some students got lucky, but I honestly do not mind just having a strong fan!

Playa Mann sunset
USFQ GAIAS campus

After class, I typically get lunch. Our host families provide breakfast and dinner during the week but lunch is on our own. There are 3 restaurants on Playa Mann that have good food, but also there are a bunch of places a short walk away on the Malecon or in town. Many students congregate at Fresco, the vegetarian café. Where else can you get pesto pasta or quesadillas here? Most places have basic lunch specials that include soup, juice, and a meal for only $4-$7. Except it gets old sometimes because it is always some sort of meat, a veggie or salad, and a big serving of plain white rice. Rice is a primary food group here. Eating pasta? Let’s have some rice too!

Quesadilla at Fresco

After lunch, I will either stay at the restaurant if it has WiFi or go to a coffee shop. There is a bread shop, Sabor Cuencano, with great coffee and delicious bread. They also have air conditioning, so it is the best escape. I am also a fan of Calypso on the Malecon. In the past, I have had group projects or reports to work on, so I will spend the afternoon doing that. Sometimes I use my afternoons to do field work for research projects, which is sometimes going to other beaches. I am so school focused I have barely given myself much time during the week to just lay on the beach. However, in the past 2-3 weeks, I have been working on fixing that problem. Side note: best ice cream is on Playa Mann. You can get a cone for $1 and flavors are typically blackberry, coconut, or passionfruit. Tastes like frozen yogurt!

Advertisements

Volunteering (Voluntariado)

I volunteered in the afternoons for 3-weeks at a summer camp for local children here ages 6 through 12. I am taking classes right now, but the Galapagos is in the midst of summer. It was really fun to be with kids again and do fun things like painting or playing games with them. I also got to practice my Spanish and they got to practice English. I feel more connected to the local community after working with them. They are very intelligent about where they live and environmentally cautious. It was a pleasure to dedicate time to them. Although they were crazy, they taught me a lot and I understand the culture here a lot more. I also really enjoy being able to see them around town!

Advertisements

Elections & Fiestas

The Galapagos had elections during my time here. Ecuadorians use the elections as an excuse to party. And Ecuadorians party hard. There were concerts, parades, and parties. The political songs were always blaring from taxi car stereos. Flags and billboards were placed around the town. It was strange at first but we all got used to it. Some students host parents were even running for a position in the campaign. It was interesting to be here during that time.

In addition to the elections, the San Cristobal hosted beauty pageants. I understand the beauty pageant world in the United States pretty well and enjoy them a lot. However, this was not what I was used to. The audience acted as if it was a soccer game. There were noise makers, beer, entertainment (I saw singers and dancers more than the contestants), food vendors, and children staying up really late. I was shocked and by 3rd hour of the first pageant I went to, I was very ready to leave. This first pageant was in El Progreso. The next one was right downtown. I am not really sure how it all works, but all I know is they are LONG.

Lastly, I had the opportunity to participate in Carnaval on the Galapagos. It was not as crazy as it is on the mainlands, but it definitely was a lot of fun. There was live music, people throwing paint and foam on each other, and some people were unlucky to get egged. There were parades and lots of drinking. I had a lot to do that week for class so I only did it for one day.

Advertisements

Estoy Feliz

Overall, I am really enjoying meeting new people, having new experiences, and making memories. The Galapagos is a special place with unbelievable things to offer. However, I really like being integrated into the community and being able to be less of a tourist. I am friends with locals and I have been able to learn how life here really is. Although the wildlife and environment are amazing, there definitely are some issues on the islands that cannot be witnessed from a boat tour with a naturalist guide. Being able to experience island life has helped me see this place with an interdisciplinary perspective and understand my role in nature, my career, and the world.

Playa Mann, across from the university

Travelers illness(es), snorkeling, and scuba diving

*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.

¡Hola!

Okay, I know…It has really been awhile this time.

But hey, I am living on island time now!

Sunset on Playa Mann (Photo By: Kayelyn Smith)
Advertisements

It has been a wild ride so far here on San Cristobal in the Galapagos. I have learned so much about the island, the wildlife, and the locals. I had an adjustment period when I got to Quito in January and I had yet another when I arrived here too.

However, I am WAY more happier here than I ever was in Quito. I have learned from living there that I am not a city girl. Also, I found it pretty easy to adjust to island life and the small town. I think this was so easy for me because my university, Juniata College, is a small campus located in a small town. My high school also had a small number of students and was in a town where everyone knew each other. Therefore, being here just reminds me of being in those environments, which I think is very different for some people in my program who are from cities or larger universities.

Before I get into the details of island life, let me tell you a story about my journey from the mainland to here.

Advertisements

Quito -> Galapagos

I was supposed to leave on Sunday, February 3rd. I was excited because I was sick of the city and was just ready to be at the beach. However, I woke up that morning and vomited. A lot. I was so nauseated. A lot of thoughts went through my head, “Is my Crohn’s flaring? What did I eat? What do I do?”. I did what I do best and pulled myself together the best I could. I was able to take a taxi to the university where we were going to board the bus for the airport. Long story short, I vomited a lot more and ended up having to miss my flight. I went to the clinic and was treated for a stomach infection, which is common in travelers because the food is so different. My program coordinator here helped me through every step at the doctor, getting medicine, and changing my flight. I spent 2 extra days in Quito recovering so that I would be at my best when I arrive for the islands. I watched a lot of Netflix.

When the plane was approaching San Cristobal, I looked out the window with the elderly Ecuadorian men I was sitting with in awe. The beautiful blue waters and green landscapes were unbelievable. As we descended from the air to land, I could not help but tear up a little. It was finally happening. My dream was coming true. I was going to LIVE in the Galapagos.

Advertisements

Finalmente

Photo By: Ethan Letourneau

When I got off the airplane, it was my first time directly walking down the steps onto the landing strip. My program coordinator for the island picked me up from the airport and took me first to the campus to put my medication in the fridge since my Humira is so temperature sensitive. We then went to my host family’s house.

My host family situation is just my host mom currently, but I really enjoy it because I get a lot of attention. My host mom’s nick name is Bachita and she is very happy to have me here. She enjoys hosting people, cooking, and cleaning. We are able to communicate in Spanish because I was able to practice my speaking skills so much in Quito with my taxi drivers. I am really glad I took Spanish all throughout high school and in college so far. Even though there is a lot of tourism here, not everyone speaks English. I have really enjoyed being able to practice so much and learn new vocabulary and geographical differences in the language. Overall, I love living with Bachita and she takes good care of me!

Advertisements

But wait, aren’t you taking classes?

The JC Banner in the office at the GAIAS campus

Yes! I have just finished two modules, which was the past 6 weeks of classes (each course was 3 weeks).

My first course was Marine Life. This course was focused on studying specific groups in the marine ecosystem. We had lecture from 9am to 12pm on days when we did not have field trips. We took advantage of our surrounding environment during the class. We snorkeled at Playa Mann, the beach right outside of campus, and Cerro Tijeretas, to study the fish species there. In addition, we snorkeled at Kicker Rock, also known as León Dormido due to the shape of the rock looking like a “sleeping lion”. While there, we saw many shark species and birds.

My class also visited La Loberia to study both the terrestrial and aquatic species that can be found there. Unfortunately, this is when stomach plague number two hit me. The night before, I began vomiting multiple times. There is one public hospital on the island and it is the same place you go for a minor issue such as a bad cough. My host mom took me there for rehydration and anti nausea medication. I spent about 12 hours there. Thankfully, I did feel a lot better after receiving treatment. In these situations, knowing Spanish has been very helpful. Although treatment is free there, it is important to remember that as a “Gringo” or just a white person, you will get treated differently. It is difficult to get tests to help figure out what is actually wrong with you unless you specifically request and pester them about it. In addition, it is just not as common to figure out exactly what is wrong, their focus is to treat and get you on your way. However, this definitely varies based on person, symptoms, and who came with you to the hospital. For example, when one of my program coordinators came, she managed to get me all sorts of tests and medications.

Advertisements

Scuba Certified

Before my next course began, my goal was to get my scuba diving certification for Open Water. We began on a Saturday afternoon with watching the videos. It was a hot room where; it was hard to stay awake. Afterwards, some of us treated ourselves to some pizza. You do not realize how much you miss food from the United States until you have it. The next day we did our pool dive. We learned how to put together the gear and practiced safety skills in the pool. It was definitely a very different experience that I have never had before. Overall, it was really fun though.

The next weekend, we dived right off the shore from Playa Mann in a shallow area so we could get used to the gear in an open environment. We had to expedite the processes of getting our certifications so that we would have it in time to dive in our next course, so the next day we dived again. We dived at Cerro Tijeretas, which was amazing! We saw sea turtles, sea stars, and amazing fish. It was also really great practice in an area with some currents. After returning from our dive, we took our exams to get certified and by the next day, we were officially PADI Open Water scuba divers!

Thank you Wreck Bay Diving Center!!!
Advertisements

Back to Business

My next class, Marine Ecology, began that Monday. This class was taught by the same professor from my Techniques of Marine Research 1 class from Quito. I was excited to see her again because I learned a lot from her in the previous class and she has a well-structured course. She packed a lot of things into a 3-week course. In addition, we had a 2nd professor who was doing research here on a Fullbright. We assisted her in part of her project in the lab doing a heat stress and a cold stress experiment on corals here. I knew nothing about the coral communities in the Galapagos until now and she brought a lot of knowledge to our lectures in class. Our field trips included snorkeling at Rosa Blana, which is a mangrove site, snorkeling and hiking at Punta Pitt, and scuba diving at Kicker Rock/León Dormido.

At Punta Pitt, we hiked to see nesting blue footed boobies!

Now cue me getting sick….AGAIN. This time was the worst. Non-stop diarrhea and vomiting. However, the next day I was supposed to go scuba diving at Kicker Rock. This field trip was the whole reason I expedited my scuba class. So, I did what I do best and pulled myself together. I probably should not have, but I do not regret it one bit. I was not able to do the first dive, but I felt better after vomiting on the boat (my 4th time vomiting in 20 hours) and joined the second dive. I saw sharks and felt great underwater (thanks adrenaline)…you only live once!! I went to the hospital immediately after getting off the boat because I was very dehydrated. I spent the next few days feeling awful. I went back to the hospital a second time because I was still so sick. I finally felt better after a week. I promise, I am taking care of myself! Many other students are also very sick. There is a lot of new and different bacteria here.

Scuba Diving at Leon Dormido/Kicker Rock after vomiting 4 times
After the dive…
Advertisements

Returning to the good stuff.

In both of my courses, my professors tasked us with creating and performing a small research project here. My first project was an observational study on the sea lion populations here and how they react to human presence. This is a hot topic here because the sea lions are EVERYWHERE. You will be walking down the sidewalk and all the sudden almost step on a sea lion. They also really enjoy hanging out on benches. However, tourists often do not respect the boundaries and attempt to get close to the animals. We were curious as to how the sea lions reacted to these attempts at various locations. Some sea lions are very reactive, but most are used to human presence.

In my Marine Ecology course, my group studied the interactions between fish and sea turtles. We filmed sea turtles and observed the cleaning symbiosis. Algae and sessile organisms gather on sea turtle bodies and fish will come feed on these organisms cleaning off the sea turtles. In addition, some fish will follow sea turtles as they feed to take advantage of the nutrients being uncovered when they forage in benthic sediment. It was really neat to see these interactions here.

I am going to end this post here, but I will be focusing more in my next post on the everyday life here and the ins and outs of the Galapagos. I promise I am actually having fun and living! I just had Spring Break and did some island hopping.

Enjoy some photos below of my island exploration!

Advertisements

Here’s to less stress and more health!

Puerto Chino

Orientation Week: ¿hablo español?

*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.

¡Saludos de Ecuador!

I have had my first few weeks here in Ecuador and I am finally starting to feel more comfortable. The first week was very difficult. It was definitely over stimulation at its finest and I want to give a shout out to the people who watched me cry when it was too much…

Advertisements

I had to:

  • Take a week long Spanish boot camp (or you could call it class)
  • Learn more about the program and what to expect
  • Sit through multiple orientations
  • Maintain my medicine’s temperature
  • Make new friends
  • Get used a new family dynamic
  • Master the art of Uber and talking to Taxi drivers
  • Sleep
  • and last but not least, getting used to being in a totally different country!!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy to be here and excited for the adventures to come, but it is just very difficult to adapt and learn so many new things at once. If you planning on studying abroad or this is your first time also, just remember that you are not alone. Everyone is in the same position and dealing with something extra that could make it more difficult to adapt.

The best thing to do is communicate with those who are trying to help you and let them know what you need. I am someone who gets pretty stressed out and anxious often, so this is not everyone’s experience and mine is probably more extreme. However, if you are feeling slightly how I felt, do not worry, it will get better!!!!

Advertisements

Monday

The first day, I went to the campus in the morning with the my host cousin because he also attends USFQ and was working on his thesis. He showed me around campus a little before dropping me off at the main entrance to meet everyone else. At the entrance, I saw more people who looked like me – lost students who do not look like everyone else.

We started mingling and talking about where we were from, what school we go to, and what we are studying. I met people who live near me in Maryland, go to school near me in Pennsylvania, and I even found one of my friend’s roommates from freshman year of college. It is a SMALL WORLD.

We split into groups and toured the campus, which is quite beautiful. Almost more beautiful than Juniata, in a very Ecuadorian way. I mean Juniata has nice grass and all, but here there’s a pond, waterfall, quad, AND palm trees.

The “lagoon”
A professor painted/designed this on campus
View of the town from the bridge that connects the mall and campus

One thing I love about the stable weather here is that no one is worried about keeping their air conditioning or heat in their homes. Windows and doors are always open and the campus has a lot of outdoor places. I love it so much.

After receiving our SIM cards for our Ecuadorian phone numbers, we had lunch and then went to our Spanish classes, which we had from 2:00pm to 5:00pm every day the first week.

Advertisements

Tuesday

We sat through many orientations and one of them was in the morning this day. We heard about the Galapagos Islands history and society and about culture shock in general. It is definitely helpful to hear about what to expect to be different here in Quito and in the Galapagos. Apparently, the hardest part is coming back to the United States. Stay tuned for that craziness since this is my first time in another country.

Advertisements

Wednesday

This was a beautiful morning. Our program scheduled a tour Old Town Quito. Cumbayá is a 30 minute drive from downtown Quito area. We got on a bus early in the morning so that we could complete the tour in time to make it to our Spanish class. Our first stop was El Panecillo, a very steep hill, home to “Virgen de Quito” or the “Madonna of Quito”. The Madonna is an aluminum, 148 foot sculpture that can be seen from many places in the city.

She also has a beautiful view of Quito and Cotopaxi, a volcano in the Andes Mountains.

We walked around the town, Plaza De La Independencia, and toured some cool places. First we went into “La Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus”, in English: “The Church of the Society of Jesus”. It was so beautiful inside, laced with gold, statues, and story telling pictures.

Next, we went to The Church and Convent of San Francisco. There was a beautiful open courtyard, with birds and gorgeous trees.

We had the opportunity to go to the top of the church, which had a great view!

Due to time, we were only able to view the outside of “Basílica del Voto Nacional”. I definitely want to go inside and go up to the top of the church before I leave.

Lastly, we had a beautiful lunch at a local restaurant.

Advertisements

Thursday

This day was far from exciting. Many students had to go to Quito to get our bank statements notarized for our visa applications. I attempted to get my visa before leaving the United States, but it is a very very very long process and I just did not have time. I then of course went to my Spanish class and then studied for my final and worked with my group on our final presentation.

Advertisements

Friday

We had a large international student orientation this day, which just consisted of more orientation presentation. Then we had our last day of Spanish class and final! It was a long class and I was glad it was over. Although I love practicing my Spanish, I do not enjoy sitting in a 3 hour class about it.

We celebrated after class and enjoyed Friday night in Cumbayá.

Advertisements

Saturday

Early Saturday morning, a few of us got on a bus in Quito to go to Mindo. The 2 hour bus ride was so cheap compared to the United States, only $3!!

Taken by a stranger who did not realize we were missing the “O”

We arrived late morning and booked a tour through the cloud forest. After lunch, we went into the forest with our guide and saw all sorts of beautiful plants and insects. We got to one part on the path where we had to cross the river. The trip we paid for included a trek across a rope bridge. I do not know how to explain it so just take a look for yourself at the trauma I put myself through:

By Jintong Wu
By Jintong Wu

Our hike after the bridge included many uphill climbs but we did get to see 3 small waterfalls and beautiful views.

On the way back across the river, we able to take a cable car thankfully so I did not have to put myself through that pain again.

After our hike, we wanted to see more waterfalls. We went up to the Nambilla Cascadas to hike to a big waterfall that you can swim in apparently. However, we got the wrong instructions and ended up not having enough time before the park closed to make it there. I have never hiked so hard in my life. My FitBit said we hiked 10 miles that day.

Not sure who took this…

My friend and I ate dinner and then took a taxi home to Cumbayá. Many people spent the night but I was ready to sleep in my “own” bed.

Advertisements

Sunday

Although I slept in my own bed, I got up early to go to Teleférico Quito with some friends. Sleep is for the weak! Teleférico is a gondola ride up the side of the Pichincha Volcano to view the city of Quito from one of its highest points. At the top of the long ride, there is more hiking paths available to the volcano’s summit. There is also snack shops and a flavored oxygen bar. Quito is already at such a high altitude, which causes a lot of pressure and fatigue on your body, but this experience takes that even higher.

Flavored oxygen bar

The view up the gondola was absolutely gorgeous.

Unfortunately, although we went early in the morning, it was too cloudy to get some of the views.

By Ellie Mendelson

However, we still walked around the path at the top and enjoyed the swings! We even had a little break in the clouds to see some of below. If you go to Teleferico in Quito, make sure you have good weather to get the best view.

By Ellie Mendelson
By Ellie Mendelson
By Ellie Mendelson

After, we all went to my friend’s host family’s house and made lunch with my friend’s host sister. It was delicious.

And that was my first week in Quito, Ecuador.

I have a bunch of Go Pro footage but this site does not seem to support videos. Will be figuring out how to share it best soon!

P.S. I miss having ranch dressing in restaurants…but the food is pretty good.

Ecuador: ¡Estoy Aqui!

*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.

Hola!

I am beginning my journey abroad in Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands.

Advertisements

This semester, I will be participating in the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) program with Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). I will be taking five courses that are divided into 3-week modules: Techniques of Marine Research 1, Marine Life, Marine Ecology, Marine Ecosystem Based Management, and Techniques of Marine Research 2. I will be spending my first month living with a family in Quito. During that time, I will be taking a week long Spanish intensive course and will complete my first module, which includes an 7 day trip to the coast of Ecuador.

After my first module is complete, I will travel to the Galapagos Islands on February 3rd. I will be on San Cristobal, where I will be living with another host family and taking my courses at the remote campus there. I will spend all of my time on the islands until May 5th.

I am so excited for this opportunity and would like to thank the Juniata College study abroad office for helping me prepare and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for making this financially possible. The support of the Gilman not only has helped financially, but they also have provided me with many resources I can utilize while abroad.

Hope you enjoy the recap of the beginnings of my adventure to Ecuador.

¡Hasta luego!

Advertisements

Flight Woes

On January 5th, I arrived to the airport in Washington, DC. At the airport, a family friend, Janet Ady, brought me a filtering water bottle and came to say goodbye! It was nice to talk to a seasoned traveler right before leaving.

Saying goodbye was far from easy. My mom and I cried a lot. My brother and I hugged for awhile. I am so lucky to have their support and I will miss them immensely. I appreciate them so much and love them more than anything!

Unfortunately, my first flight was delayed and it was supposed to cause me to arrive too late in Houston to get on my next scheduled flight to Ecuador. I was landing at the time my flight to Quito was departing. The next flight out would have been 6:00pm the next day. I was fully prepared to spend the night in Houston once I arrived. When I landed, I asked an agent about my hotel voucher and my new flight assignment. He told me it would be quicker if I went to a different gate agent, until he was done with his duties helping the plane unload.

Advertisements

So I started walking towards the gate he suggested and I realized it was near the gate my original Quito flight was departing from. So I figured I would check the gate just in case because when I landed, the United app still did not report that the flight departed yet, as it typically does. As I walked there, I opened the app and refreshed my flight page again (I did it a million time due to numerous updates). The app indicated that my original flight to Quito was delayed…I took a double take. “Is this real life??”, I thought to myself. I jogged to the gate to find out if this was true.

As I was approaching, I sized up the scene: an official looking man on the phone, an agent, and an empty gate. I thought I was too late and then the man says to me, “Are you flying to Quito?”. I nodded and he sighed, “Well today is your lucky day”. He was so right. It certainly was.

Advertisements

He explained that there was an alleged mouse on the plane and they were going to switch planes. I was worried my seat might have already been given away, but they got a larger plane and I was able to make it on. I even got the whole row to myself!

Everyone who heard my story was impressed and cheered me on. Well, they were not clapping or anything, but they shared in my excitement and surprise that it worked out in the end.

Traveling With A Chronic Illness

Throwback to my Crohn’s flare in Tennessee

As many of you know, I have Crohn’s Disease and was diagnosed in 2013. I take Humira, an injection medication, every week to manage my symptoms. As a biologic medicine, Humira must be kept between 36-46 degrees F.

I will be studying abroad for a whole semester. That means, I needed to bring 17 weeks worth of medication and that meant 17 Humira pens. So how the heck did I manage to keep that many injectable pens in that temperature range for so long?!

I did it thanks to Polar Bear Coolers. I found this cooler when I was researching about taking biologic medicine abroad and I found someone’s chronic illness blog mentioning their success. I then went to the website and found a recommendation for the product from a rheumatoid arthritis patient with a high ambition for travelling. This seemed promising. I also bought the suggested wireless thermometer to track the temperature. After some trials at home, we found the product to work great and that it should be able to handle my flights!

The best part about the cooler is that I can even add loose ice to it without it leaking. This was very beneficial on the plane. I had to let TSA open my cooler to make sure the ice was solid and the equilibrium got little out of whack. However, with the added ice from the fight attendant, I was able to get it back to the correct temperature. They have many different sizes and it does not have to be a backpack, but that was most convenient for me.

I highly recommend this product to anyone with an ambition to travel and a temperature sensitive medicine. Chronic illness has tried to stop me many times in my life and I refused to let it stop me from exploring the world and pursuing my dreams.

Advertisements

“Welcome to Ecuador, my dear”

That’s what the worker in customs said to me at 7 a.m. when I finally landed in Quito. I was exhausted, nervous, and excited all at once. I watched the mountains fly by me as I rode in the taxi to Cumbayá, a parish in Quito where USFQ campus is located and my host family lives. I breathed in the new air as best as I could…because the altitude change is so drastic that was a little hard.

My host family’s house is beautiful. They have a nice yard with many plants and a garden. There are hammocks hung up and dogs running around the yard. My room is right off of the glass patio, which allows in the beautiful rays of the strong sun. Natural wood makes up a majority of the interior of the house.

One of the biggest differences I have noticed about Ecuador so far is that leaving the door open or the windows open is normal. The climate here is fairly stable and people are not worried about keeping in their heat or air conditioning because they do not need it.

I will be sharing details from my first few weeks in Quito, Ecuador soon. I am just so busy doing the things I am going to write about right now that I do not have much time.

Sneak Peek
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Taken by: Ellie Mendelson

Until then…

Don’t forget to follow my Instagram: @Stephs.logbook

To the students following my blog, feel free to message me questions!!!

“A dream will always triumph over reality, once it is given a chance.”

Stanislaw Lem

My Real World

*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.


The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world.

Georges Simenon

Hello? Hi, its me! Remember me?

Wow, oh wow! It has been awhile. I have finally found time to crawl out from under my pile of work, stress, land commitments to write (for fun this time…but more about that later).

Midterms

As the semester progressed, midterms became closer and the stress was climbing. At the field station, since we have each class all day once a week, midterms were slightly spread out. This was so we did not have to cram and stress for multiple exams at once. Fall Break gave us a little break during that time from October 11th-14th. We all survived and made it through together. One nice thing about living with people who are taking the same classes as you are is that you can study together. We took advantage of that and helped each other understand the content. We definitely feel each other’s struggles!

Class at Balance Rock in Trough Creek State Park
Advertisements

The End of Boating Season

As the weather got colder, our opportunities to go out on the boat for class were growing slim. Our limnology professor took advantage of Raystown Lake for the last time with our class. We replicated our survey from the beginning of the semester to compare data from different seasons. This was a very cold morning and unfortunately one of our boats broke down. However, it was nice to have one last boat ride this semester.

A few of us also decided to kayak for the last time. It was just barely warm enough and it was super windy. It was a lot easier to paddle in when we got to the cove out of the wind. If you ever want to experience ocean kayaking, just put in at the field station on a windy day!

Research, Research, and More Research

My research project for the semester is completed and I just finished writing the first draft of my paper for it. It has been a lot of work and A LOT of writing this past week! We spent our snow day last week writing our papers all day long by the warm fireplace in Shuster Hall. As a refresher, my group studied the effects of Acid or Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) restoration in Miller Run. This stream is located in a previously mined region in Central PA. The local watershed association has completed many restoration projects and our goal was to monitor the streams progress in recovery. We sampled various water quality parameters, kick netted for benthic macroinvertebrates, and electrofished for brook trout in the stream. We only spent 3 days in the field, but many more days in the lab identifying macroinvertebrates. To be honest, I have never identified anything to the genus level, so this was very difficult. However, I learned fast (thanks to help from classmates and professors) and feel like I have learned a lot from this experience! I will be receiving revisions on my paper from my professor in the upcoming weeks and will complete the paper. 

Advertisements

Also, I revisited my project from the Spring semester, which was tracking the movement of brown trout in the Little Juniata River. I had to opportunity to join other students on the project to present our research at a poster session as part of the 2018 Susquehanna River Symposium at Bucknell University. It was intriguing to see the other research occurring within the watershed and to answer questions about my own work. We also heard from Christopher E. Williams, who is the Senior Vice President for Conservation for American Rivers. The company’s website states their mission is “to protect wild rivers, restore damaged rivers and conserve clean water for people and nature”. Williams discussed his career path, which included law school. He also discussed how our world is entering a “water insecure future” and what that means for our resources. This also includes having too much water; for example, the flooding in Ellicott City. Rivers are important for channeling water and also for providing it. This does not even account for the life in the water and the surrounding areas that rely on the resource. Overall, it was an interesting keynote address and it definitely had me thinking about the big picture of all of my freshwater research. 

Lastly, I am presenting my research from last summer at ORNL in a poster session on December 13th in Washington D.C. at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2018. The conference is being held at Walter E. Washington Convention Center. If you are planning on attending or know a colleague attending, let me know! I would love to connect with more scientists. I will be attending the conference late due to my finals in the beginning of the week, but I will be there the 13th and the 14th.

Here are the details:

Abstract Title: Quantifying Fine-root Branching Response to Experimental Ecosystem Warming Utilizing Image Analysis Software 
Presentation Type: Poster 
Session Date and Time: Thursday, 13 December 2018; 13:40 – 18:00 
Session Number and Title: B43M: Plant–Soil Interactions Under Global Warming: Learning Mechanisms from Multiyear Field Experiments and Natural Gradients Posters 
Location: Convention Center; Hall A-C (Poster Hall)

Advertisements

Study Abroad

As this semester comes to an end, my plans for study abroad have begun. I was officially accepted to the GAIAS program through Universidad San Francisco de Quito a few weeks ago. I am currently in the midst of attaining my VISA, scheduling flights and classes, and figuring out my medications while abroad. There is a lot to do before I go, but I am really excited!!! I cannot believe it is almost a month away.

NOAA Internship

In my last post, I mentioned that on October 1st the database for Hollings scholars to begin viewing internships would open. I spent a few days casually viewing the projects listed and gawking at the amazing locations they were in. However, I did not see a project that really stuck out to me, but I decided to pick a few that I wanted to learn more about and could see myself participating in. I emailed one potential mentor about his project and scheduled a phone interview. After sending that email and not feeling as excited as I felt I should, I decided to look more into the projects that included some outreach or education. In 2017, I had an environmental education internship and loved it, but I knew that was not all I wanted to do. In 2018, I had a research internship and also loved the experience, but it still did not fulfill everything I wanted. I always thought it would be great to have a job where I could do research and outreach. I also really love studying the Chesapeake Bay, but I was trying to go to another ecosystem. 

Well, you know what? Like my dad says, the doors of opportunity do not just open for me. Instead, they run up and throw themselves down in front of me. There was this one project that I saw when I first looked and it had the word education in it. I did not even click on the description because I kept telling myself, “This is NOAA! You should do research!”. You can guess what happened next. The words “Chesapeake Bay” finally called my name enough and curiosity caused me to click on the project. I only read the first few sentences before I copied the whole internship information page and emailed it to my mom with the subject “AMAZING INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITY”. 

I emailed, scheduled a Skype interview, had the interview, and got the position. It was an amazing interview and I never felt more qualified or excited about something in my career. They emailed me less than an hour after our interview to offer me the position. It really feels meant to be! I will be doing a site visit on December 16th-18th to meet my mentors, tour the facility, and the area. 

My project is “Translating Chesapeake Bay Research and Stewardship Projects into Useful, Hands-on Education Products” at the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia on the campus of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). This project is exciting for me because I will get to do both of the things I love: research and outreach. I will be living in Williamsburg, VA this summer and will also be looking for apartments for the summer soon. Let me know if you have any connections to the area or any tips for my upcoming summer.

Advertisements

Field Station Fun

As always, I try to share some of what I do when I am not in class or doing research. At the station, we have had a lot of fun and bonding experiences lately. In early October, we dug out this years crop from the potato patch! We have been eating lots of yummy potatoes as a result of this adventure. 

To celebrate Halloween, we carved pumpkins as a group, toasted pumpkin seeds, and decorated our fireplace for the season.

Each semester, the station hosts an Etiquette Dinner to teach us which fork to use and how not to embarrass ourselves in that kind of setting. Our group also decided we wanted to do a “murder mystery” game. Everyone dressed up in character assigned ahead of time and we enjoyed our meal, while trying to discover who the “murderer” was. We definitely had a lot of fun!

While trying to finish up our papers, we had a snow day. Due to the limited time in class, we still received work over email, but it was still a snow day! I spent the majority of the day writing, but in the evening when the snow ended, some of us decided it was the right time to go sledding in the drive way. 

I never thought I was going to experience snow at the field station, but I am really glad I did. It was so beautiful!

Also…we are in the woods so sometimes trees fall…in the middle of the road.

Call me Lumberjack Letourneau!

Our class spent one day collecting and identifying macroinvertebrates to assess the health of another AMD stream in PA for community service. Shout out to Marissa for the awesome picture!

Lastly, my mom came and visited one weekend. I took her to Trough Creek State Park and Rainbow Falls. We took pictures and she even got some of me!

See you after finals!!! 🙂

Home Away From Home

*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.

Waving hello from the lake!

Photo Aug 23, 1 59 38 PM
Field Station Harbor

On August 17th, I traveled to Juniata and spent five days with my teammates preparing to cheer for the football season. One of my favorite things about cheerleading is that it offers an escape from the stress of the day plus I get to see many of my friends. My coach is very supportive and always reminds us that our academics come first. We are at college to be students before we are athletes. During preseason, we had the opportunity to share our program with the local news. Check out our broadcast! There are links to our short segments below the text. I also was put on the spot for an interview. Our team has pride in being student athletes!

Photo Aug 20, 7 34 38 AM.jpg
Our team with Jordan Tracy of WTAJ

On August 22nd, I successfully moved into the Raystown Field Station. We had a presentation after moving in on field safety and then went down to the fire pit by the lake for s’mores and residential life information.

Photo Aug 22, 7 19 44 PM.jpg

The schedule at the field station includes having one class all day each day. Our first day was an introduction to the station, tours, and logistics.

My class schedule is:

Mondays – GIS

Tuesdays – Sense of Place Seminar and Nature Photography

Wednesdays – Research

Thursdays – Aquatic Ecology

Fridays – Limnology

Advertisements

Our first class was Limnology on Friday. We have only had a few classes, but so far we have designed a leaf decomposition study as a class to evaluate nearby ponds and Raystown Lake. Our labs the past two weeks have comprised of going out on the lake on the boat and measuring the lake’s physical and chemical properties.

Photo Aug 31, 1 58 58 PM.jpg
Using a probe to measure dissolved oxygen at different depths of Raystown Lake

For GIS, we have been exploring the program and practicing creating maps or finding information. I am very excited to learn how to use GIS more and how it can help with my research.

Sense of Place seminar began with a boat tour of Raystown Lake, which included the basic science and history facts of the area. Who knew you could have a lecture on a boat? We also discussed our research projects for the semester. I am not sure what I am exactly studying yet, but I will be researching an acid mine drainage site.

Photo Aug 28, 10 32 47 PM
Photo Aug 28, 10 32 38 PM
Boat tour of Raystown!

The first two weeks, we did not have anything on Wednesdays because we do not have our research projects established yet. My professor said, “Either make it a very productive day or a really good day”. I did a combination of both; I did some homework in the morning and spent the afternoon kayaking on the lake with some classmates.

Photo Aug 29, 2 59 11 PM

Nature photography is a lot of terminology and learning the basic concepts of how to take a good picture. It is particularly difficult to take pictures of wildlife because of their movements so we have learned a lot of specialized techniques so far. Our first project was a picture of a wildflower. Here are my first attempts! I am looking forward to improving my skills.

Advertisements

Aquatic Ecology has been an introduction to ecology and learning the applications of these concepts in aquatic ecosystems. This course is unique because it is taught by Dr. Lane Loya from Saint Francis University.

One afternoon, we had a mini Lake Symposium to listen to researchers discuss the previous studies on Raystown Lake and the potential issues for the future. The presenters included a park ranger from the US Army Corps of Engineers, and from Juniata, Dr. Sharon Yohn and Dr. Chuck Yohn. It is interesting to learn about an ecosystem in which you live and about the different issues that have to be monitored.

I also enjoyed kayaking and going on a firework cruise on the lake with my mom on Labor Day weekend.

Photo Sep 02, 9 40 37 PM.jpg

From September 10th to 14th, our class at the field station is travelling to the Finger Lakes region of New York to study lakes and streams. We are going to be staying at the Cornell Biological Field Station and the USGS Lake Ontario Biological Station.

On the way home, we will stop at Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I will be taking lots of pictures for Nature Photography while there so I will document a lot of the trip! Our Limnology and Aquatic Ecology professors will be joining us too, which will provide an immersive experience to apply everything we have learned and will learn this semester.

I wanted to end this post with some fun from one of Juniata’s traditions, Lobsterfest (Yes, sometimes I actually go back to campus.) It is an opportunity for students to sign up for clubs and enjoy delicious lobster on the quad.

Advertisements

I am probably going to jinx myself, but another tradition at Juniata is Mountain Day. One day in the fall, classes are canceled and the school provides buses to take everyone to Seven Points Recreation Area on Raystown Lake for a day of outdoor fun including a picnic lunch, kayaking, slip and slide, inflatables, tug-of-war, and more. However, no one knows in advance when it is going be. As the JC website states, “trying to guess the date of Mountain Day is one of the most popular topics of conversation among the students and faculty in the weeks leading up to the event”. It really is. Students and professors will place bets when they think it will be and students will stay up all night if they think it might be the next day.

I really hope Mountain Day is not this upcoming week while we are in NY, but if it is we will get to pick another day in the semester as our own field station “mountain day”. I really want to go this year because we will be able to sail the research boat across the lake to get there.

I have already heard some rumors…so fingers crossed!!

Here’s to more adventures and beautiful sunsets on the lake.

Photo Aug 30, 7 47 53 PM
Photo Aug 30, 8 03 06 PM

On The Road Again

*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.

Hello from Maryland! I am enjoying my few days home before I go back to Juniata College. I have completed my internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It was an amazing experience and I am so glad that I was able to go. I learned many new researching skills, added interns and researchers to my network, and now have knowledge about fine roots, peatlands, and image analysis software.

Challenges & Successes

One thing not all my readers may know is that I have Crohn’s Disease. Unfortunately, I had a flare during the end of July and I spent one week in the hospital. The picture below perfectly expresses how trapped I felt; I wanted to go outside. I am very lucky to have to coworkers and the community that I do here. I had many visitors, including my mentor. I also was blessed to have so many people at home thinking of me and sending me flowers. I have spent quite some time now on the road to recovery. Luckily, I had already completed all my research, my poster, and just needed to wrap up my technical report. I am grateful that Department of Energy permitted me to complete my internship part time.

On my second day back at the lab, I presented my poster to other interns and researchers in the Environmental Sciences Division. It was exciting to share my research with so many people and to show how much I had accomplished regardless of my setbacks.

On August 9th, I had the opportunity to present my poster for researchers from all of ORNL, graduate recruiters, and other interns. It was really fun to be able to share my research with other scientists and interns. I am glad I felt healthy enough to be able to make it there.

Photo Aug 09, 11 27 13 AM
Other Environmental Science Division interns. Middle: Cameron Toerner, Right: Abbygail Ochs
Photo Aug 09, 8 48 16 AM
Presenting my poster on August 9th
Photo Aug 09, 8 42 27 AM
My Poster

In the future, I am excited to be able to attend the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in Washington, DC in December to present my research with my mentor.

Advertisements

Research Results

My internship is now complete (well, when I submit the paper). That being said, I am very excited to finally be able to share the results of my research. If you need to refresh yourself more on the topic than what I am about to share, please go visit my post about Week 1.

I want to start by sharing this video from Department of Energy, highlighting the SPRUCE project as a whole. It is a great video to explain the long term goals of the project.

Above is an image of the poster I presented, which highlights important aspects of my results and conclusions. However, the image would be very small and hard to read if I pasted it here, so I broke it down below.

I have also included my 300-word abstract above the poster. Both convey basically the same thing, but the abstract is more developed content-wise and uses more complex language. The poster was designed as a visual aid for easy and quick reading, but also includes the graphs.

Choose the one that best fits your needs or read both!!

Abstract:

Quantifying fine-root branching response to experimental ecosystem warming utilizing image analysis software

Stephanie Letourneau (Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA 16652)

Avni Malhotra (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37830)

Colleen Iversen (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37830)

Peatlands store large amounts of soil carbon and this carbon is vulnerable to global change. Peatland carbon, if released into the atmosphere, could feedback into global warming via increased atmospheric greenhouse gases. Fine roots are adaptive and integral to biogeochemical processes due to their role in plant nutrient and water acquisition. Thus, the fine-root trait-environment relationships are key to modeling whole-ecosystem responses to climate change. For example, branching intensity (a root trait describing number of branch tips per unit length of root) can adapt to changing moisture and temperature, but the extent and mechanism of root branching in peatlands is unknown. Further, environmental responses of branching relative to other traits, such as root length and diameter, are unclear in peatlands, and can relate to plant resource allocation strategies. We sought to determine (1) if image analysis software (WinRHIZO™) can be used to evaluate branching intensity and (2) whether shrub fine-root branching intensity increases with warming (and associated drying). To address these objectives, we analyzed images of fine roots collected from cores at the “Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments” (SPRUCE) experiment. In SPRUCE, ten experimental plots provide temperature and atmospheric CO2 gradients. WinRHIZO™’s tip counts did not correlate with manual counts (R2= 0.56, p<0.001), especially in images with numerous roots. Thus, for objective (2), we manually counted root tips in images. We found no significant relationship between branching intensity and warming in the ambient CO2 plots, indicating that branching may not be the first trait responsive to warming. Rather, fine-root length responded strongly to warming. Conversely, in plots with elevated CO2, branching and temperature correlated strongly and positively (R2=0.84, p =0.03). This result suggests that branching response to warming varies by CO2 concentrations. Our study provides valuable data on root traits for future global climate and peatland models.

Poster:

Picture13.png
Picture5
Picture6
Picture7

Results and Discussion

picture1-e1534287277451.png
Picture4.png

THIS LABEL IS SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE GRAPH ON THE RIGHT:

ρ=0.9, p-value=0.04

(copy and paste does not agree with me)

Picture8
Picture9
Picture10
Picture11

I would like to thank my mentor Dr. Avni Malhotra and my co-interns for all of the support and encouragement along this journey!!! I learned so much and I had fun while doing it.

Advertisements

Surprise!!

While I was ill, I received an email from Lee Popkin, the director of the John Muir Scholarship from the Sierra Club Catoctin Group. I received the John Muir Scholarship from the club when I was a senior in high school to support my college tuition. I have kept in touch with him and gave him updates on my educational adventures. I am very honored that the club has offered me an additional scholarship to help with my tuition and study abroad in the spring. It is great that the program is evolving to be able to do this! I am very grateful and I am excited they have been so supportive of my journey.

New JMS Logo.jpg

Moving Forward

My next adventure is the beginning of my junior year at Juniata College! I have been looking forward to this semester since I was in high school. I am going to be living and taking all my classes at the Raystown Field Station. This semesters theme is Aquatic Ecology, which will allow me to further study the freshwater ecosystems in Pennsylvania. When I say I am living at the lake, I really mean it. Look how close it is!!

From Juniata.edu RFS

At the field station, classes are divided by days, except Nature Photography, which is an evening course. Here’s my course list and descriptions from the schedule.

  • Limnology: “An ecology/environmental science course covering inland aquatic environments (lakes and streams).”
  • Aquatic Ecology and Lab: “They will focus one or more special environmental skills, methods, approaches or technologies. In the lecture component of this course, we will focus on concepts and vocabulary central to understanding the science of Ecology as applied to freshwater systems. We will investigate the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of wetlands, streams, rivers, ponds and lakes.”
  • Geographical Information System: “An introduction to a Geographical Information System (GIS), and the course objective is that students gain a basic, partial understanding of GIS concepts, technical issues, and applications using Arc View GIS. It encourages thinking in spatial context. A diverse array of hands-on computer applications and projects are used to understand how geographical data can be analyzed spatially. Students explore analysis techniques in a problem basis learning approach using small team projects.”
  • Sense of Place Seminar: “This is the “cornerstone” of the Sense of Place semester, managed by one faculty, but comprised of a series of modules taught by various faculty and guest speakers. Module topics cover a range of environmental, ecological, and societal issues connecting to the region. Students will be expected to journal their experiences at RFS as well as complete other writing assignments.”
  • Nature Photography: not much of a description exists but you can imagine what this is. Expect many cool photos this fall!
Advertisements

See You Soon!

I am traveling to Juniata August 17th to begin preseason for cheerleading, moving into the field station on the 22nd, then starting courses on the 23rd. I will be driving back to campus for cheerleading practice and games while I am studying and living at the lake. I am very fortunate to be able to enjoy both of these opportunities this fall.

Life of an Intern: Networking & Nature

*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.

Long time no see!!! As I expected, life began to take over and I have not had a lot of time to write an update. However, here I am! I have been very busy at the lab and exploring East Tennessee on my weekends. I hope you enjoy this update.

I have 3 weeks left at the lab and in Oak Ridge. The summer has flown by but I have learned so much in these past few weeks. The amount of experience I am getting and the connections I am making will definitely help me in the future. I also have been taking advantage of the researchers I am surrounded with by learning about their career and asking for advice. It is so valuable to hear about another’s journey because you might learn about something that you never knew existed or you might find yourself in their shoes down the road.

Advertisements

Professional Development

I have various required activities during my appointment. There are seminars on Wednesdays and then ‘Lunch & Learn’ events on Thursdays.  The events have been about safety at the lab, the deliverables that are due at the end of the summer, and research being conducted at the lab. By the end of the summer, I will have completed a paper and a poster presentation.

To provide more resources and information on our future careers, ORNL hosted a Career Connections Day. This all day event began with remarks from Dr. Moody Altamimi, Director of the ORNL Office of Research Excellence.  She was followed by Dr. Lee L. Riedinger Director of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. He was a great speaker and gave the advice to “pursue leadership” if your personality works in that role. The following speaker before lunch was Eric Benson, an Organizational Development and Training Consultant in Human Resources. His presentation outlined the power of managing your connections early on and the steps one must take to actually do that.  His best advice was, “Life’s too short [what ever you do], have a passion for it”.

After lunch, we were honored to have the opportunity to listen to Dr. Michelle Buchanan, the Deputy for Science and Technology at ORNL. She shared details about career path and discussed her own family values. This has become one of my favorite things that researchers talk about. I believe family and having a life outside of it is important, especially for myself. I am sure some people do not need that, but I am at the age where I realize I need that kind of support in my life. She shared that having a family balance was important for her and that it is possible to have both research and a family. Dr. Buchanan did it and now look at the position she holds.  She did add that it was necessary to have a supportive spouse. She married a chemist and her daughter is now a chemist. I can imagine that having someone in a similar field as you is easier because they understand your work struggles more. She also noted you will need to compromise over the years and have patience.

Photo Jun 20, 1 48 09 PM
Connecting at Career Connections Day

Next, we had a panel of ORNL Scientists discussing “Building Your Connections – Creating Your Community”. Each scientist had different backgrounds and career paths. Some of the suggestions I scribbled down in my notes suggested considering attending graduate school abroad, finding a mentor with passion, and considering work before attaining a PhD. The last two presentations were focused on building your brand and how to utilize social media for career connections. We heard from Brian Rose, an ORISE Recruiter and a panel of recruiters. The end of the day was dedicated to various stations. They included professional groups such as the Committee for Women and Women in Physics and various 5-minute critique stations for LinkedIn accounts, resumes, or interviews. To continue encouraging our professional development, the lab hosted a Professional Organization Day to sign up and meet industry professionals.

Photo Jun 21, 12 17 02 PM
Left: My office-mate, Parker.  Right: Manda

Making My Own Connections

Amidst my spree of adding people on LinkedIn after learning how important connections are, I noticed someone in my suggested connections list who was a Juniata College alum and works at NOAA currently. I clicked on her profile and saw she was a previous Hollings Scholar and she did the same study abroad program in the Galapagos that I am doing in the Spring. Using the skills that I have learned in the past few weeks, I sent her a message to reach out and see if we could talk. She agreed and I was very excited!

Fast-forward to the next week and we had a great phone call.  Her name is Katie Shelledy and she graduate from Juniata with a degree in Biology when I was a freshman (2017). She did her Hollings internship in Wood’s Hole, MA studying fish bioacoustics. She is currently working as a Junior acoustician at the James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. She discussed how her mentor from her internship played a large role in getting her current position. Yet another example of the importance of connections.

We also discussed her experience in the GAIAS program in the Galapagos. She participated in the same module I am interested in, Marine Ecology. The students in that module spent most their time out in the water. She noted that this immersive experience was the best semester because of the amount of field experience she gained and the fact that the world is literally your classroom there. This definitely sounds like the program for me! Katie is currently applying to graduate schools and is interested in an interdisciplinary program.

Her advice to me was to “trust yourself, be patient, take advantage of new connections, have a good network, and have a life as well” and the most important: take things “one day at a time”. Talking to Katie provided me with invaluable insight into what my future could hold. She has had many of the experiences that I will be having and in general, it is nice to talk to someone who also came from a small school, in fact the same small school. I am very excited to have Katie in my network now and talk to her more in the future.

I also recently had lunch with a Post-doctoral Research Associate who is part a collaborative team working to understand coastal wetland carbon sequestration in a warmer climate. She is also from a small school and it was fun to understand how different people in her life affected her path through marine science. Yet another great new connection!

Advertisements

Weekend Fun

On June 16th, Oak Ridge celebrated its annual Lavender Festival. This all day event included numerous vendors, live music, food, and LOTS of lavender. When I walked towards the event, the aroma of lavender in the hot air swarmed me. I was able to enjoy local food, lavender lemonade, and lavender ice cream. I also bought a few items to enjoy the lavender weeks later.  It was a beautiful day.

IMG_6975
IMG_6976
Lavender Lemonade
Photo Jul 21, 7 37 20 PM
Lavender Ice Cream from Razzleberry
Photo Jul 21, 7 37 11 PM
Chicken and Pineapple Sticks

In addition to the festival, the Farmers Market was also bustling with fresh produce, which is a weekly occurrence. I have enjoyed going to the farmers market every Saturday to get vegetables for my meals. Lately, it has meant more to me to support local businesses and to know where my food is coming from. I highly suggest a farmers market to anyone considering attending. The farmers are very knowledgeable about their produce and its a great community. Also, supporting local business is important to keep family businesses alive!

On the weekends, my friends and I have been able to enjoy cooking and eating together. We have had many dinner parties and have experimented with a lot of foods. Good Saturdays with good friends and good food!

In addition to food, I have enjoyed the nature. I walked around the University of Tennessee Arboretum with a friend after work one day.

Photo Jun 21, 6 08 52 PM
Photo Jun 21, 5 47 52 PM
Photo Creds: Berat Arik
Photo Jun 21, 6 11 22 PM
Photo Jun 21, 6 26 46 PM
Turtle Friend

I have also found that there are many quarries in this area and have explored many of those.

First, I went to Fort Dickerson quarry right outside downtown Knoxville.  There was a lot of people along the trail’s edge enjoying the weather, lots of dogs, and every float you can imagine in the water.  There was a large rock wall that was perfect for climbing!

Photo Jun 17, 3 03 17 PM

The second quarry is in West Oak Ridge. There was a path to walk down to get there, which was about a mile. Therefore, there was no one there until around the time we left.

I adventured to the third quarry in early July. I spent the day hiking at Ijams Nature Center and then went down to Mead’s Quarry. It was beautiful but we did not go out on the water. However, when my mom visited, we rented paddle boards and enjoyed the quarry for a sunset paddle.

My mom visited for a short weekend, but we did a lot. On Saturday, we went to the farmers market and then headed to downtown Knoxville for brunch. We at on Market Square at Tupuelo Honey. It was delicious.

We went to Ijams Nature Center for hiking that afternoon and paddle boarding at Mead’s Quarry. Our evening ended with a showing of Ocean’s 8.

The next day we headed to Melton Lake for more paddle boarding and then visited with family before taking her to the airport.

Photo Jul 15, 7 43 25 PM
Advertisements

Back To Business

You are probably wondering how my research project is going. It has been a long process but we have finalized my poster on Friday and have completed the first draft of my abstract. Next Monday, my paper is due so that will be a lot of what I am working on this week. It has been an interesting journey but I have learned a lot about research in the ecology field. One of the best skills I have learned is being able to read scientific papers. I cannot wait to share my results with you all but I am going to wait until everything is completed. As a refresher, I am studying fine-root branching responses to environmental change. A lot of my work has been working with images of previously processed and scanned roots to determine branching in the past two years. My mentor has given me a lot of the responsibility throughout this process and let me be fairly independent. I have enjoyed experiencing the challenges and the troubleshooting. We are hoping for me to get more root picking experience in my last few weeks at the lab.

Photo Jun 25, 2 05 57 PM
Roots!!!

Thanks for all your support and for reading my updates! Feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions. I end my internship August 10th and I am going back to Juniata for preseason on August 17th.

Until next time!!!