Confession: I moved to the Florida Keys during a pandemic

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

Yes, in the midst of a pandemic, I moved down to the Florida Keys for the summer.

Craziest thing I have ever done? Definitely not.
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Post-graduation plans were looking grim with COVID-19 after a virtual graduation, until I was accepted to the Marine Conservation Internship at Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) in Key Largo, FL. REEF is a non-profit focused on citizen science and community engagement in marine conservation.

The 10-week internship began in the middle of June. I drove all the way down to Florida in just 2 days from Maryland with the help of my boyfriend. It was a long drive, but we were greeted by the most beautiful weather.

I lived with the other interns at REEF in a beautiful vacation rental house near about almost everything in Key Largo. Not only was our porch screened in (which is perfect because the Keys has MANY mosquitoes), but it wrapped all the way around. It provided the perfect place to eat outside, workout at night without being bitten up, and to simply enjoy the weather.

During this internship, I had a lot of new experiences and gained a lot of new skills. Just to name a few:

  • Learned more about my late Uncle Andy, his experiences with marine life, and his scuba diving career
  • Realized my passion for citizen science
  • Refined many professional skills
  • Became a Level 3 Surveyor at REEF
  • Made amazing friends
  • Grew as a scuba diver
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REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project

My favorite part of this internship was learning about and participating in the Volunteer Fish Survey Project (VFSP). This citizen science project allows scuba divers and snorkelers to record and report information about marine fish populations all over the world. My favorite part is that REEF provides the training to learn how to identify fish and makes uploading data very easy. The database REEF maintains is a source for many research publications and provides data for the monitoring and management of important populations and invasive species.

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Scuba Diving Accomplishments

The diving in the Keys is absolutely beautiful. Luckily, I got to enjoy it on my days off. This added up to a total of 35 dives and now my lifetime list is 60 dives.

In addition, I finished my PADI Advanced Open Water and Enriched Air Diver certification with Key Dives.

For my Advanced, I dove at Jules’ Undersea Lodge to knock out three of my dives. It is exactly what it sounds like, it is a hotel underwater! The lagoon has low visibility, so it is not an amazing dive destination, but it is a pretty cool concept and you sometimes get to see manatees!

The 5 dives I did for my Advanced were deep, night, navigation, peak performance buoyancy, and fish identification.

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At the end of the summer, I decided to go ahead and get my PADI Rescue Diver certification. I am so glad that I did!

As I wrote in my Instagram post below:

This course meant more to me than I expected it would when I first set this goal. I knew that diving emergencies happen. My uncle passed away after a diving accident.

However, this summer I was part of a group who responded to a panicked diver. The situation grew to become very serious and my CPR training became my instinct.

The diver made a full recovery because of the training everyone who was on the boat that day had and the actions they took.

After that moment, I knew I wanted to learn how to better respond in those situations because although I am CPR certified, I was unprepared for how to respond in the water with scuba gear on…in three foot waves.

But thanks to @keydives and @scubavegan, I feel equipped with the knowledge and training to better respond to diving emergencies.

Accidents can happen anywhere at anytime. Although we work to prevent them, we should also be ready to respond to them!

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Favorite Bites and Sips in the Upper Keys

After spending a summer in the Upper Keys, I definitely have some places I would recommend! I did not get to go everywhere, so this is definitely not everything…just what I could do with COVID-19 around!

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Saying Goodbye to the Keys was not easy

However, I can confidently say this more about the Keys than any other place I have been: it is not goodbye, only see you later.

This was an invaluable experience an undoubtedly has given me a new perspective on my life and connection with marine conservation.

I also gained new ideas for future projects and I am excited to share those soon.

Until then, don’t forget to check out my new Instagram!

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Lavender Lemonade
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Lavender Ice Cream from Razzleberry
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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.

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Photo Creds: Berat Arik
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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

Toto, I’ve got a feeling we aren’t in Maryland anymore

*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.

Greetings from Tennessee!!

So yes, I have started my internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory already and I am very behind on updates. However, this should be exciting because that means I am having a lot of fun, so I will have cool things to write about.

We began our journey on June 1st. My brother and my mom drove down to Oak Ridge with me. It was certainly a challenge to get everything stuffed into the car. When we were halfway there, I decided I had enough energy to keep driving so we ended up in Oak Ridge that night. The next day was spent moving my stuff and visiting with my aunt, my cousins, and her lovely children.

On Sunday, I attended a pre-orientation picnic at Clark Center Park for all the interns at the lab. It was a chance to meet people, ask questions, and sign up for activity groups. There was also free food (this is a continuation of my food tour from my last post). I had a pulled pork sandwich. After all, barbecue is a Tennessee specialty. I met some cool people I still talk to, but I realized quickly that we will not be seeing each other much due to being in different divisions and on completely different sides of the campus.

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Photo booth at the picnic…PC: Manda Boisvert

Monday, June 4th was my first day! I got to the lab early to avoid having to wait in a long line during the badging process. Each intern had to get processed through the visitor center to get a badge and an email log in. It did not take me long so I had some down time to mingle and eat lunch.  Orientation programming did not begin until 12pm so we actually waited for awhile. The program was very short compared to my NOAA orientation. We heard from some officials at the lab and from the representatives at the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education about the lab in general and about our specific appointment details.

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Representing Juniata College
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Friends at orientation
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After the presentations were over, we got to meet our mentors, finally.  They lined up to use the microphone to call out our names. It felt like we were getting picked for the Hunger Games except you want your name to be called. My name was called and my journey really began.

The first few days were full of training and reading about the project I was going to be working within. There was online training, reading, and then in lab training to learn about specific lab hazards. There are many interns in my division this summer and everyone is very cool. I share my office with another intern and we have become great friends! It is a lot of fun meeting new people from all over the place.

My mentor is Avni Malhotra, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Environmental Sciences Division. For her doctoral research, she studied the ecosystem structure-function links in peatlands. She currently is studying fine root dynamics at ORNL. Although we have only been working with each other for a few weeks now, I feel very lucky to have her as my mentor. She brings advice from her personal life and from her many facets of educational experiences. I also have been enjoying getting to know the other researchers in our division and hearing about their careers. They might not realize it, but every story they tell helps guide my future.

The project I am working on is called “Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE)”. I encourage you to read more about it from the official website. The project is simulating climatic changes to determine the effects of increased temperature and carbon dioxide at varying increments in peatlands. These ecosystems are large carbon sinks. With increased atmospheric temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, there is a threat of positive feedback onto the atmosphere and climate. As you can imagine, there is quite a variety of researchers working on this project. These are the beginning years of this long term project and it is very exciting to be part of this full ecosystem analysis.

What is my role in this project? My mentor is focused on fine root dynamics in the ecosystems. Specifically, she is interested in the branching intensity of these roots. So that is what I will be working on this summer.  I am looking for differences between the different treatment plots and determining if branching correlates with any of the treatments. My first week has been spent reading a lot of literature that relates to this, because fine roots and branching is an area of science I have not spent a lot of time in. It has been engaging to learn something completely new and be able to have the curiosity and the resources to further the studies.

How am I going to do this? The lab has ingrowth soil core samples from each plot at the site which look like this (except a longer tube because they get cut):

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They fill these with peat and place them in the ground to collect the fine roots growing at a certain time period. They get cut to account for the depth in the ground. In the lab, we search through these soil samples for roots using forceps, jewelers glasses, and lamps. After you pick through the soil, the roots are then classified and ordered. The root samples then get scanned to become an image for analysis of length, diameter, tips, etc. The roots are later dried, ground, and sent off for nutrient testing to determine the amount of carbon in them.

At the end of the first week, I was able to spend a lot of time working with these cores. We call the process “root picking”.  It is tedious but the data is important for future studies. I will have updates about my progress but overall I will most likely wait until the end of my project when I have a poster and a paper to share for my final results. I am excited to see where this project takes me!

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Root Picking Views
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Jewelers glasses

As part of my internship appointment, there are required seminars and events to attend. During the first week, I learned about the publication database, Web of Science, and it has become my best friend. It was neat to see all of its different features, and I have definitely found it to be very useful.

I also had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call among researchers in SPRUCE. I loved being able to hear about all the different studies going on just on this one project. Since it is a whole ecosystem study, everything is pretty much covered!

Bring Your Child to Work Day was the first Friday of my internship so it was nice to see all the little kids running around.  Also, they had a fundraiser on campus for United Way and were selling ice cream sundaes!!  What a great end of the week.

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Rewind to the beginning of the week….

On Tuesday, it was time to say goodbye to my mom and my brother. My aunt and I sent them off at the Knoxville airport and tearfully watched them fly off. No worries, your favorite mother-daughter duo will be back together for a weekend in July.

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Posing in the airport
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See you later!

Weekend Fun

On Friday, I experienced Knoxville for the first time with a friend and he showed me around. We had yummy greek food at Yassin’s Falafel House and walked around Market Square. I was surprised how small the social area was but it was certainly cute and a nice area. I also saw the Sunsphere at World’s Fair Park.

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Tennessee Theater in Knoxville

On Saturday, I slept in. It was great and much needed. I then went with some friends to the Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge! The festival celebrates Oak Ridge’s rich history with music, vendors, and food. We met up with some other interns and now I have a much larger friend group than before.  For lunch, I had another barbecue sandwich. Then, some of us went to dinner afterward at a pizza parlor called The Tomato Head in Knoxville.

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Secret City Festival
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Sunday was spent getting ready for the week ahead. I visited with my aunt and my baby cousin. I wish I could remember more but honestly these days fly by. I spend a majority of my time during the week at the gym and/or the lake. Running at the lake is quite beautiful, and it’s nice to get moving after sitting all day in the lab or my office. I also have discovered the local farmers market and it’s really nice to get fresh produce.

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Melton Hill Lake

I am going to work on writing Week 2 updates ASAP!

I look forward to sharing more of my adventures with you.  It has been a lot of fun so far. I love what I am studying and I have really learned a lot about what I want to do with my future. I just have to find the time to relax and reflect on this journey. I am appreciative of everyone who has been so supportive so far.

See you next week!

P.S.  Here’s my cute little bio posted in the break room for the Climate Change Institute and surrounding offices.

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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.