NOAA Hollings Science & Education Symposium Week

*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.

This past semester was a long adjustment period of figuring out my life at Juniata again, but also trying to think about my future. But before I leap into the future, I want to reflect on the end of my summer and my internship.

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NOAA Symposium Week

All the Hollings scholars spent the last week of the Hollings internship in Silver Spring, MD at the NOAA headquarters. The goal of this week is to practice presenting posters or presentations and learn about other interns’ projects.

In addition, we got to rekindle friendships that we previously made at the orientation and network with like minded students. We also had free time to explore the DC area after our day ended.

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Project Results

If you are not sure what my project was, visit here to gain the full background on it.

First, one of my proudest accomplishments is that I created a full traditional lesson plan and an online Story Map for students and teachers to learn about marsh restoration. Second, I was able to use these two platforms to evaluate student and teachers perspectives.

Ultimately, my project highlighted that both students and teachers have a preference for blended learning, which includes a mixed use of technology and traditional teaching methods.

Through short interviews, I was able to understand how technology is used in science classrooms, the advantages and disadvantages, and how we can improve resources we provide for teachers to use.

Also, for my science-minded friends, here is an abstract:

It can be problematic to engage students in science because some concepts are difficult for students to visualize. One way of alleviating this issue includes using authentic research from scientists, allowing students to explore real-world situations. With the advancement of digital technology tools, teachers are beginning to implement digital learning to aid classroom instruction and the student learning process. Esri Story Maps is an evolving tool that allows end users to explore a topic through images, videos, interactive maps, data, figures, and text. This platform is accessible for educators, researchers, industry professionals, and even students. The objective of the study was to compare perspectives of translating science through traditional learning versus digital learning. For this project, current research focused on a thin-layer placement marsh restoration technique experiment in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) was translated into a lesson plan and Story Map. In addition, a series of short interviews with teachers and students were conducted to understand their perspectives on digital learning. Those same teachers were then provided an opportunity to evaluate the two learning tools and both tools were tested with high school students attending a summer camp at Chesapeake Bay NERR in Virginia. This study outlines the difficulties with utilizing technology in the classroom, but it also highlights the benefits when used in a strategic manner. By better understanding student and teacher perspectives on digital learning, we are able to provide useful resources to assist teachers in quality science education.

I gave a presentation and I had a family friend, a previous coworker, and one of my mentors come watch!

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Are you a science educator?

Check out my tools…Even if you aren’t check out my lesson plan (Mitigating Marshes Against Sea Level Rise) and Story Map!

While in DC…

I had the opportunity to meet up with some of my friends from study abroad!!

Also, I went with some other scholars to the zoo, a Nationals game, saw Bryce Vine in concert, and went to the botanic garden. It was really great to see my peers and spend time with them again. We also continued our tradition and watched another Sharknado movie.

It was a great week and I had a lot of fun sharing science!

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Last of Summer

In the brief time I had before my job training, classes, and cheerleading began, I took a trip up north to visit some friends.

New Haven

First, I went to New Haven, CT to visit my friend Charles from my internship at Oak Ridge National Lab. He is an adult now…works a real job, lives with housemates, etc. It was really great to see what he is doing after graduating and catch up.

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Boston

Then, I went to Boston, MA to visit my best friend from studying abroad, Nicola. I have not spent much time in the area before, so it was really fun to explore and see where she grew up.

I even ventured to Harvard to beg them to accept me. HA just kidding…

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Cape Cod, MA

Nicola and I spent the weekend at her family’s lovely home in Cape Cod. However, on the way we made a quick stop in Duxbury to see my family’s burial plot from years ago at the Mayflower Cemetary.

We spent the weekend catching up, going to the beach, eating seafood, and exploring Provincetown and Wellfleet.

I had so much fun visiting my friends and waved a sad goodbye to summer my last of summer.

Don’t forget to follow my blog to receive updates!

Chesapeake Summer, Colonial Times

*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.

Getting Real

Reverse culture shock is real….especially when you never let yourself fully engage in it. If you recall, shortly after I returned home from the Galapagos, I moved to Williamsburg, VA for my internship. I began working 8 hour days, 5 days a week, then went to the gym all evening, made food, slept and repeat. I never gave myself much time to think about what I learned from my experiences and how I was impacted.

After my internship, I had a short period of down time for travel and relaxation before I was back on Juniata’s campus for tour guide training and cheerleading. It was difficult coming back to living on campus for the first time in a year while learning about everything that has changed while I was away. Luckily, I have great roommates to help me with this transition but it is still hard for me. Our Center for International Education has hosted events for study abroad returners to give us a place to talk and discuss our transition process. It has been really great to have that resource.

Roommates Deanna (left) and Mara (middle) in our new home Pink Palace

That being said, I finally feel like I have somewhat of a routine on campus again and can start finding time to write about my most recent experience. It is long overdue, but better late than never.

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The Internship

Just to recap from my last post, this summer I participated in my NOAA Hollings Scholarship internship at the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR) at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). Since VIMS is the graduate school of marine science for William and Mary, I learned more about graduate school options for my future.

My Project: Translating Chesapeake Bay Research and Stewardship Projects into Useful, Hands-on Education Products

This is a paraphrase of my previous post but I felt it was important to explain again. I worked with both the stewardship coordinator, Scott Lerberg, and the education coordinator, Sarah Nuss, to enhance education on Chesapeake Bay environmental issues and current restoration projects. I only had 9-weeks to plan, conduct, and analyze my project. The 10th week was a presentation at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, MD.

My project was 2-fold: first, I created a lesson plan based on the current National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s thin-layer placement (TLP) project and then I made an interactive digital version using Esri Story Map.

The basic definition of TLP is the purposeful placement of sediment or dredged materials to a specified thickness to provide higher elevation for marshes to withstand sea level rise and erosion. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is comprised of 29 locations and 8 of these are home sites for the two-year TLP restoration experiment. CBNERR-VA is one of these sites and I was able to participate in monitoring of the experiment first hand.

Esri’s ArcGIS Story Map is an evolving tool that allows end users to explore a topic through images, videos, interactive maps, data, figures, and text. This platform is accessible for educators, researchers, industry professionals, and even students. I highly recommend this for teachers or for public outreach. I already knew how to use GIS (mapping software called Geographic Information Systems), but this allowed me to use it in a different way to reach the public.

The second step of my project included piloting the tools with students and receiving evaluations from teachers on both the traditional and digital platforms. This included interviews with both groups to gain their perspectives on digital learning vs. traditional learning of science. I was able to access both teachers and students over the summer through two of the CBNERR events: Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop and VIMS/CBNERR summer camp.

The TOTE workshop was held at VIMS Eastern Shore Laboratory in Wachapreague, VA. This week long workshop is designed to train teachers on research and field methods in their local estuary. This allows NERRs to create connections with teachers and show them what tools are available to enhance their classroom instruction. Teachers had the opportunity to go into the field and practice what they can teach. I used this week to interview them for my project and have them sign up to review my tools.

Some images below are thanks to CBNERR-VA Staff, VIMS Staff, and fellow teachers.

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The VIMS/CBNERR summer camp was also a one week experience for rising 9th graders and above to learn about the Chesapeake Bay, environmental stewardship, future careers, and to train to be a junior camp counselor for future camps. I used this week with our students to interview them about their technology use in class, I practiced teaching my lesson, and also had them explore the digital tool. Some images below are thanks to CBNERR-VA Staff.

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My everyday work was different each week. In the beginning, I was working more with the stewardship team doing field work in the reserve sites. I got to visit each of the four reserve sites and learn about all the projects ongoing at CBNERR-VA. Here’s some photos from my field work adventures!

I then transitioned into thinking more about my project and writing my lesson plan. Once my lesson plan was closer to completion, I was able to begin my Story Map. From there, it was a lot of computer work but I got to break it up by going to TOTE and helping with the VIMS summer camp.

I also helped with two Discovery Labs, which are themed public outreach nights for all ages to come and learn about science at VIMS.

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Through these experiences, I learned a lot about the lack of resources and difficulties teachers are facing in our developing technological society. I also was able to understand how students respond to technology and what learning styles they prefer. Overall, I was able to create the first story map for CBNERR-VA and understand how to help science teachers effectively teach science while using technology. This will help NOAA and the NERRs system better equip teachers to share estuarine science.

Personally, I learned how to conduct research in education, how to effectively teach science, how to create and design a lesson plan, how to create a story map, and the importance of estuarine stewardship. I gained a new understanding in my role as a scientist with a passion for outreach. Interacting with the students during my lesson and watching them interact with the digital tool was one of the highlights of my summer. It was great to see my hard work have a positive impact on students.

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Adulting 101

This summer, I was forced to be more independent than I ever have been before and be an…..*gasp* ADULT! It was great practice for my next steps after graduation (which as of right now is getting a job…more about that later). Although I spent my summer working a 40-hour week and going to the gym everyday, I found some time to have fun and enjoy colonial Williamsburg.

For the summer, I lived in a house with William and Mary students in Williamsburg, just 20 minutes away from VIMS, which is down the York River in Gloucester. I lived a 5 minute walk from Colonial Williamsburg and had easy access to a direct drive to VIMS on the Colonial Parkway. I loved the people I lived with and the friends I made this summer. I lived in a beautiful place and there was always something to do. They also showed me the local bar scene.

One of my favorite things to do included going to the farmers market on Saturday mornings. I got local vegetables, fruits, soaps, and kombucha! Check out my favorites from the Willliamsburg Farmer’s Market: Ninja Kombucha, Virginia First Tea Shop, Glow Holistic, and Tasha’s Own (lovely goat milk soap).

In addition, I was able to enjoy visiting Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown with my family when they visited and with friends.

On my own, I ran in many different parks and sat on many riverside beaches.

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Thank you CBNERR-VA for having me this summer. Also, thank you for the lovely farewell dinners!

There are so many amazing things to do in this area and I truly loved it. Thank you to my College of William and Mary friends for taking me in for the summer.

Follow my Facebook Page that I am finally uploading photos and videos to!

Coming and going

*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.

Hi, it’s me. Writing to you, back in the United States.

Leaving the islands was hard. I was excited to come home but I could not imagine being away from the place I knew and loved without knowing when I would return.

It was especially hard to leave knowing all the responsibilities waiting for me at home. A few weeks after arriving home, I was moving to Williamsburg, VA for my summer internship.

Everyone asked me while I was home, “Will you be staying here for the summer?” and I just kinda laughed.

“Now why would I do that?” I would respond.

As much as I love being home, with my family and friends, that is just not in the cards for me. I won’t say that’s not who I am, but my drive to adventure, experience new things, and educate myself in different places is too strong.

Coming and going. That’s what I do.

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Lima, Peru

Before heading back to the US, I decided to take one last adventure in South America and use my connections. I flew to Lima, Peru and spent the week with a friend I met on the Galapagos, who now works at a restaurant in Lima.

I really enjoyed getting to know Barranco and Miraflores, two of the districts in Lima. It was awesome to have my own town guide and I ate AMAZING food while I was there.

List of Restaurants I went to in Lima:

I loved walking along the coastline. The view was beautiful and there were tons of dogs!

Dogs!!!

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One of my favorite places was Parque Kennedy, where dozens of cats live. You can see them hoping to get a bite parked next to the food vendors or people enjoying their snacks on a bench.

Parque del Amor

Enjoy these pictures from my Lima adventure:

It also was a nice stepping stone before going back home to help me get used to being back in “civilization”. Since I was so excited to go to Peru, I was not as upset while leaving the island. However, I knew once I got home, I would start to feel the sadness creep in slowly but surely.

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Back in the USA

I was happy to see my mom, my brother, my grandparents, and my friends. However, there were a lot of things I did not miss, such as the fast paced lifestyle. I have the whole reverse culture shock feeling, which has been difficult to deal with.

I spent my first few days at home resting. I was extremely tired from my travels. Eventually I worked my way back into driving, throwing toilet paper in the toilet, and speaking English. I tried to relax for a little because in a few short weeks, I was packing my things up again and going South, but not as far this time.

While home, I saw my friends and my doctors, tried aerial yoga, visited the Distinguished Young Women of Maryland orientation, celebrated my birthday 21st birthday, swung by the local farmers market, ate at the Greek festival, and went to the Boonsboro Green Fest with my mom.

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Gilman Scholarship/Follow-on Project

Also while I was home, I completed part of my Follow-on Service Project for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. I went back to my high school, Middletown High School, to present to students about studying abroad in the Galapagos. Some classes even read my blog prior to my arrival and had questions prepared about my experiences. I talked with biology, Earth sciences, and Spanish courses. It was certainly a rewarding experience for me. I had several students come up to me after to ask more questions or thank me for coming. I am glad I was able to spark interest in study abroad or certain careers for students. It was moments like those when I was in high school that really opened my eyes to the opportunities world holds and what could be my future. Thank you MHS for having me!

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Down South: Williamsburg, VA

On May 26th, I packed my car and drove a few hours down to Colonial Williamsburg. Why the heck did I do that?!

Well, it has been awhile since I talked about my internship for the summer as part of my Hollings Scholarship. If you remember my post from December, I visited where I was going to work and met my mentors. Seems like forever ago. The Hollings Scholarship requires students to figure out locations and projects pretty early on, which was nice so I did not have to worry about any of it while I was abroad. Before I left, I even had my housing figured out thanks to my connections from DYW!

This summer, I am working at NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia. The reserve is on the campus of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). My internship is 10-weeks long, including the last week where we present our projects at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, MD.

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My Project: Translating Chesapeake Bay Research and Stewardship Projects into Useful, Hands-on Education Products

So the idea of my internship is to work both with the stewardship coordinator, Scott Lerberg, and the education coordinator, Sarah Nuss, to help share more of the work being done on the bay in educational settings. We met together and they shared their visions. There are so many projects I wanted to do with them and ideas we had, but unfortunately I only have 9-weeks to plan, conduct, and analyze my project.

We looked at what resources were available to me and decided on a project. I will be creating a traditional lesson plan and a digital lesson plan using Esri’s Story Map to teach about marshland restoration and sea level rise. Specifically, I will be drafting a lesson that explains thin layer placement as a restoration technique and discuss a current experiment throughout many of the NERRs system.

Not only am I making these two avenues to teach students but I will be 1) interviewing teachers at a teacher workshop about their experience with technology and digital learning, 2) having teachers evaluate the lessons, 3) piloting the lessons with high school students at a summer camp, and 4) interviewing students before and after the lesson to evaluate their learning preference.

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What is thin layer placement?

You’ll find out once I finish my Story Map….or you can Google it…

See you next month when I finish up my adventures on the Chesapeake Bay!

Until then, follow my Facebook Page that I am finally uploading photos and videos to!

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)
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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!!!
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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…
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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!

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Here’s to less stress and more health!

Puerto Chino

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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
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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

Farewell Field Station & More

*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.

Happy almost New Year!!!

2018 has certainly been a year of ambition, learning, success, and new experiences. From earning the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship to my DOE summer internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), I have had career advancing opportunities and personal development experiences. I am beyond blessed to have earned many scholarships this year that are assisting with my tuition and study abroad costs.

I have worked hard, battling the obstacles of my Crohn’s Disease, to pursue my passions. I am proud to say I have made Juniata’s Dean’s list both semesters in 2018. I look forward to continuing this work next semester in a warmer climate….see you soon Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands!

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Finals

After returning from Thanksgiving Break, the field station had our last few classes. Final exams were just around the corner. We had 2 exams, our nature photography portfolios, a GIS project, a research paper from our semester long projects, and an group presentation of our research results. Needless to say, our plates were full and we were feeling the stress.

Before the stress really hit, many of us participated in one of Juniata’s many traditions on campus by attending the Madrigal Dinner and Dance on December 1st! During dinner, our faculty and professors are our servers and we end the evening by singing holiday carols. You really have to be there to understand the full experience, it is quite unique. Afterwards, there is a dance in the gym. It is a fun night to dress up with friends.

Also, I visited the Terrace Mountain Alpacas farm to pet some alpacas.

As a stress buster, our awesome Resident Director planned a white elephant gift exchange and we made cookies!

I am going to miss the field station a lot, especially the people I had the opportunity to meet and get to know. People often ask me if I like living at the field station, especially since it is so far from campus. I tell them, “Yes! I love it because of the location, but mostly because of the people”. Being on Raystown Lake in the middle of the woods was beautiful and relaxing.

However, I think the people made the biggest difference. I learned so much about myself and who I want to be personally and professionally. I was able to get to know people who I never would have on campus. I made new friends, created memories with genuine and beautiful people, and had a lot of fun being me. I cannot thank everyone enough for all their support, acceptance, and knowledge they have shared.

So long Raystown Field Station!

Raystown Lake

If any current or prospective Juniata students are interested in studying at the field station, I highly suggest it. It is a great immersion opportunity, like study abroad, but less culture changes and still near campus (I also suggest you study abroad but you will be hearing about that for the next few months).

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American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

Day One

The day after I had my final presentation and moved out of the Raystown Lake Station, I traveled to Washington, D.C. for the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting. I used Metro from the Shady Grove station to get downtown on both days I attended the conference. When I first entered the convention center, I was overwhelmed. There were people everywhere and it was a huge facility. I quickly located the registration desk, which was also massive.

After getting my official badge, I connected with my mentor from Oak Ridge National Lab. It was nice to see a familiar face in a sea of strangers in heels and blazers. I met many of her colleagues and connections, which was very exciting. Together, we went to the oral presentation titled, “Centennial: Transformational Contributions over the Past 100 Years in the Biogeosciences I”. It was an interesting series of presentations because it encompassed my knowledge from my internship over the summer and new aquatic concepts from the classes I had just completed.

After I grabbed lunch, I explored the exhibit booths and talked to a few graduate school programs. It was a great experience to practice asking questions and to start thinking about what is important for me about graduate school.

Before I knew it, it was time to present my poster. I was in the session titled, “Plant-Soil Interactions Under Global Warming: Learning Mechanisms from Multiyear Field Experiments and Natural Gradients”. I had practiced talking about my research at the end of summer at the ORNL intern’s poster session, but this was my first time presenting at a larger conference and completely alone. I was pretty nervous.

However, time flew by during the presentation time frame. I stayed at my poster for a majority of the time during the 1:40pm to 6:00pm time frame. I continuously had researchers approach me to discuss my project. I was able to reconnect with and discuss future interests with many scientists that I knew from working at ORNL. Also, I had a Juniata alum, Liz Cushman, come to my poster to network with me. I am excited to have more professionals in my circle of connections.

I ended the evening in DC with a delicious dinner at Tiger Fork with a former coworker from my internship at Audubon Naturalist Society.

My inspirational fortune at dinner
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Day Two

I arrived to the conference later on the second day due to a doctor’s appointment, but I was just in time for the oral presentation, “Building Stronger Communities in Academia for Effective Education and Outreach II”. I was particularly interested in this series because one of my future mentors for my Hollings internship with NOAA this summer was presenting. It was a great way to learn more about the goals of their projects and gain inspiration for my future work. I also learned a lot about programs that encourage scientists to be educators of their own work.

After the presentation, I went to view the ocean sciences, hydrology, and biogeosciences posters being presented that day. I was able to talk to graduate students about their work and their academic journey. It was great to gain insight on different paths to take and opportunities available. I ended the day by joining my mentor from ORNL in an oral presentation session and hopping around to a few others. My experience at AGU was eye opening and inspiring. I made many connections, and had meaningful conversations about my career and my interests.

I would like to thank the Environmental Science and Studies Department at Juniata for funding my conference experience through the Environmental Fellowship. I look forward to more experiences like these!

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NOAA Site Visit

A few days after the conference in DC, I traveled to Williamsburg, VA for my official site visit for my internship this summer. I stayed at a hotel in Williamsburg and my mentors provided transportation to the site in Gloucester Point. As previously mentioned, I will be interning with the stewardship and education coordinators at the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia on the campus of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. My focus will be assisting with monitoring in different sites on the York River and translating these projects into educational pieces, such as a story map and a lesson plan.

During my visit, I toured the campus, met other staff members during their holiday party, and discussed details of what my project specifically will be.

I was also lucky to be able to visit one of the reserve monitoring sites. I went to Taskinas Creek reserve, which is part of York River State Park. I got to visit the marsh and see the established weather station. They have meteorological, biological, and water quality monitoring programs established there.

It was beautiful, even for being the middle of December. I have already learned a lot about coastal environments and marshes. I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge more this summer about these ecosystems.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and exploring Williamsburg. I am very excited to spend the summer there!  

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Study Abroad

As many of you know, I am study abroad next semester in the Galapagos Islands. I will first stay in Quito for the first weeks before going to the islands. I leave for my semester on January 5th and I am currently preparing for the transition. I want to give my study abroad it’s own section on my site, so I will be creating another post later with more details about what is upcoming.

However, I did want to share some excitement with you. I have received the
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to help pay for my semester abroad! I am grateful for this financial assistance especially since there are thousands of dollars of extra fees associated with my program due to transportation, field trips, and entrance fees. To read more about this opportunity, see Juniata’s article.

Also, Juniata awarded me with one of The Thomas R. Kepple, Jr. International Opportunities Endowment awards to help with the cost of this trip. I am very lucky to have this support!

As part of the Gilman scholarship, I am required to complete a Follow-On Service Project to promote study abroad experiences and the Gilman program. I will be using my blog as my promotion platform and will be connecting with specific groups. My goal is to have students (high school and college) follow my blog while I am abroad and then I will talk to them in person when I come back about the experience.

See you next year!

Bubble Tea, Pho, & Sharknado

*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.

What do these three things have in common?

Well, I spent the last week of May in Silver Spring, MD for the NOAA Hollings Scholarship orientation. I arrived on Monday the 28th to check into my hotel (they gave out warm cookies when you checked in). I met up with another scholarship recipient from Juniata for dinner and we ended up meeting a super cool group of people I can now call friends.

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Tuesday

I woke up early to meet everyone for breakfast at the hotel before we headed over to the NOAA Science Center. It was only a 15 minute walk through Silver Spring from the hotel. Once everyone was checked in, the program began. We first were welcomed by the Deputy Director for Higher Education, who was followed by RDML Tim Gallaudet, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. He discussed his journey and gave advice about how to make the most out of our experiences. He definitely made us more excited than we already were about being part of NOAA’s mission. The next portion of the morning was set aside for information about the scholarship.

We finished the last portion of the morning session by beginning our introduction to the line offices. First up was National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Dr. Cisco Werner presented and gave an overview of the diversity of work the Fisheries Service can do. The field opportunities are endless and this office is definitely on my list for next summer.

After the morning session, we took group photos and dispersed for lunch.  If you’re curious, we got Chipotle.

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After lunch, we continued our session. Next was the National Weather Service. Although I do not think I will work with them, I find their mission and work incredibly interesting. Dr. Leticia Williams, a Social Science Post-Doctoral Student, explained their mission to provide Impact-Based Decision Support Services. This is something I have always found interesting. The way you explain something to someone changes their perspective of it. In terms of weather, they mentioned needing to improve their forecast reports not to just give percentages, but also to provide specific information to those interested about how their day will be impacted.

National Ocean Service (NOS) was the next presenter and, by the end of the presentation, I was ready to sign up. A lot of my interests in coastal management and restoration fall under this office. They also provide a lot of field work. This speaker was also very personable. Like other presenters, he discussed how his career began, but he also included how he focuses on his family life in addition to his work life. This became a theme among many of the NOAA presenters, which was reassuring to hear as a young person who wants to start a family one day.

The last presenter of the day was the National Satellite and Information Service (NESDIS). We heard from Kelly Turner, the NESDIS Chief of Staff, and Alek Krautmann, a NESDIS Program Coordination Officer. Kelly discussed her career path, which originally did not include sciences. Alek also discussed his path and his experience as a Hollings scholar. NESDIS is the core of all information that the other offices analyze and utilize. They are not exactly on my radar (pun intended), but I will still consider their projects.

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That evening, we attended a Reception and Networking Session at the hotel. There was a pasta bar, mocktails, wings, turkey, fruit bar, and an amazing selection of desserts. Needless to say, we did not leave hungry.  

And to continue the food tour, I tried Bubble Tea for the first time!!!  It was delicious.

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Wednesday

The morning was the same. We met for breakfast and walked to the science center. We began with a presentation from the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). Three representatives from varying areas of their office spoke. The same theme continued throughout each presentation and we learned about the diverse ways people can get involved at NOAA.  This office does a lot of different work and I think it is possible I will do a project with them. These speakers gave good advice, especially for interns.  Everything from “apply, apply, apply” to “be able to communicate science” was extensively covered.

The last presentation introduced me to a part of NOAA that I never even knew existed. The Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) includes the NOAA Corps. What the heck is that?! From the OMAO website, “The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and serve with the special trust and confidence of the President.” I had no idea this existed. These are the people who do the work for the scientists to get data. I am not sure if I am going to pursue this, but it is an option!

We took a break for lunch at this point. My group went to Chick-fil-A.

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The afternoon consisted of a career fair with each of the line offices represented by a variety of people. It was an excellent opportunity to discuss my interests with each office and find out where would be the best place for me and who to contact about certain positions. The advice I received and the connections I was able to make will indefinitely help me when deciding what project I would like for next summer.

And that was the end of the day!

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We went to dinner that night and I tried Pho for the first time.  I also got a smoothie with bubbles.

After dinner, we walked around and finally decided to watch a movie.  After being entertained by American Ninja Warrior and a PBS documentary on Einstein, we chose to watch Sharknado for a good laugh.

The best part was how excited we were when the movie mentioned the National Weather Service…we are officially NOAA nerds.

Thursday

On this day we got to tour nearby NOAA facilities. I went to The NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Maryland.

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This is where scientists work on providing weather, water, and climate forecasts for the United States. It was very cool to hear from the scientists about their work and see the actual space where they work. There was A LOT of computers. Each person took time to explain their work. It was amazing.

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The tour of the facility included a Science on a Sphere presentation.

After lunch, scientists from the facility gave detailed presentations about their work. It was really cool and they were all very passionate.

My favorite speaker overall from the whole experience was the last one.  Dr. William M. Lapenta is the director of NOAA‘s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). He shared his career path and his personal life, just like everyone else, but what made him different was that he included his wife’s career in his story. She was also a high achieving scientist who started and continued a career with NASA. This meant a lot to me and, when asked further questions, he mentioned that each of them have had to make sacrifices for each other over the years. This is important to hear in an era where husbands and wives are both working. Promotions and traveling become taxing and difficult on families and relationships. He also talked about how one can be overworked. In this aspect, he leads by example for his employees. He only works 40 hours a week and spends the rest of his time with his family and friends. He wants everyone to come in and do the best work during those 40 hours, but no more. I loved hearing that because working overtime and being an “overachiever” all the time can be dangerous. I definitely struggle with that now and I am only in college.

Overall, I loved my tour! Check out my group in the bottom left picture:

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And that was the end!!!

But the fun did not stop. I was able to spend the evening with my awesome new friends in Washington D.C.

We ate a fancy dinner, saw the President leaving the White House, toured the memorials, and ran through a huge storm.

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I had SO much fun. Not only did I learn more about NOAA as an organization, but I learned more about my interests and what my career could look like. I also learned more about myself by meeting people with the same drive and interests as me. Each of my new friends have amazing career paths ahead of them and I cannot wait to see where this takes us.  Thanks for being awesome and never stop.

See you guys next year when we have completed our internships and are presenting our posters!!!

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Stay tuned to hear about my first week at ORNL!

And so it begins…

*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 friends, family, and anyone who seems to have found their way here!

As my undergraduate career continues, so does my exploration for adventure and opportunities. I have created this page for the purpose of sharing all of this in one place. I hope you enjoy following my journey.

In case you do not know me, I am studying Environmental Science at Juniata College. I have just completed my Sophomore year. At Juniata, I am a cheerleader for both football and basketball. I work only a few jobs on campus. I have spent the past two years as an Admissions Counselor Student Assistant. This past year, I began working as a Campus Tour Guide and a TA for the introductory environmental science classes in the department. On an academic level, I had the opportunity to participate in research this past semester that tracked trout in the Little Juniata River.  On top of all of that, I have the full time job of managing my Crohn’s Disease.

Before I introduce my upcoming experiences, I would like to highlight my internship from last summer. I worked as a summer Environmental Education Intern for 10-weeks at the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase, MD. They offer a variety of nature summer camps for many different ages. I gained valuable experience in education with students in Preschool up to 9th grade. Each week, I had more responsibilities in the lesson plans and, by the last week, I had planned and taught my own lessons. By working with a variety of different age groups, I realized that I enjoyed sharing my love for the environment and the importance of caring for it. I definitely want to use this in my future career and be able to educate the public about environmental science. I will probably get nostalgic about it at some point because I loved my campers so much.

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So what am I doing now?

The next two years are far from boring…I can promise you that.

This summer I have been selected to participate in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) with the Department of Energy. My description includes that I am “a student intern in the ORISE SULI program [who] will research leaf, wood, and root traits sampled across soil and environmental gradients. [My] primary tasks will be in the laboratory, alongside [the] Environmental Sciences Division staff”.

My first day, which includes orientation, is June 4th, and my last day will be August 10th. I will be leaving Maryland June 1st. I am excited to be living in Oak Ridge, TN with my family this summer and to be able to spend quality time with everyone. If you find yourself near the area, let me know!! For the next few months, the majority of my posts will be about this experience.

Next week I will be in Silver Spring, MD for orientation for the Hollings Scholarship. I was honored to be a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program recipient for 2018. This scholarship program provides academic assistance for two academic years beginning September 2018 through May 2020 and one summer internship in 2019. I will spend this upcoming fall determining where I would like to complete my summer internship, which will be at one of the NOAA facilities. I will be at orientation from May 28th until May 31st. The week will consist of information sessions on NOAA’s offices and a tour of one of the facilities.

This fall I will be studying at Juniata’s Raystown Field Station. The field station is a facility where students can live for a summer or a semester and complete their coursework. The classes are environmental science- and biology-based. This immersive opportunity will allow me to research Raystown Lake while taking upper level electives for my major. Each semester, there is a different module offered at the field station and I will be participating in the Aquatic Ecology Fall 2018 semester. I will be able to take Aquatic Ecology, Geographic Information Systems, Sense of Place Seminar, Nature Photography, and Limnology.

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(Wait….there’s more?!?!?!)

Next spring I am continuing my journey overseas…on the Galapagos Islands!!  In the Spring 2019 semester I will be studying with the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) on a remote campus of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).  While abroad, I hope to gain valuable marine ecology research skills in a coastal environment and knowledge about an environment that is not in Pennsylvania.  I also believe having a global perspective is important when working with other people to understand cultural differences.

The summer after that, in 2019, I will be pursuing my internship with NOAA through the Hollings Scholarship.  Location: TBD!

That’s it for now…I promise…

I could not have gotten this far without my mom, my grandparents, my father, my advisors, my professors, the admissions staff at Juniata, and my friends.

So please, join me on this adventure.

I am excited to see where these experiences take me.