And that’s a wrap!

Even though the semester finished online, it ended (almost) like most do.

*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.

I had final projects and assignments to complete. Juniata College’s athletics department had the Alfies, the annual award ceremony. Although a few things were missing, two important events still happened online: Liberal Arts Symposium and graduation.

Juniata Cheerleading Seniors
watching the Alfies together
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Liberal Arts Symposium

Liberal Arts Symposium (LAS) is Juniata College’s version of a research symposium. It is my favorite tradition because it showcases students’ work and projects from the academic year. I was able to present my Hollings scholarship project with the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia because I have been spending the academic year working on a manuscript for a publication with my mentor. The benefit of this being done via Zoom is that my family were able to listen and support me from afar.

Send Off Zoom Calls

As a senior, this semester was supposed to be my last time to annoy my professors and pick their brains. Some of this time was lost, but many departments still gave their seniors a send off celebration. We had a Zoom happy hour to reminisce and tell stories about our memorable moments in the Environmental Science department and at Juniata.

Photos creds to Liz Ruszczyk
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Graduation

Lastly, I had the infamous virtual graduation.

To be honest, I was not expecting much, but Juniata greatly exceeded my expectations. However, my cap and gown did not arrive in time, so I had to get resourceful. I had celebrated with the Her Campus’ “I’m Still Graduating Event” and had received a cap plus some goodies from a variety of brands, including Havaianas, Conair, RXBAR, Hallmark, and Aussie, so I wore that cap paired with my high school graduation gown.

The Zoom room allowed for 1,000 participants so everyone who wanted to attend, plus the students, were able to join. We sat in my living room and I wore my cap and gown because why not? Unlike most “professional” webinar style Zoom meetings, they allowed for everyone’s screens to be displayed and for us to use the chat box with everyone. This was fun because you could scroll through the pages and see all your friends dressed up, like we would have been.

Messages were sent through the chat congratulating each other and sharing expressions of joy. We had speakers, music, and then a huge surprise. The staff and faculty created a video with heartfelt messages to say congratulations and give us their final goodbyes. During the video, our names and honors scrolled across the screen to honor us all individually. There was also an online program to view degrees and hometowns.

This beautiful video was certainly a surprise. I do not think any other class will have this special moment of pride after months of disappointment.

Watch my moment of fame:

After the celebrating, I hopped on my own Zoom call with my extended family to celebrate.

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Farewell Juniata…

I am extremely upset that my semester did not end the way I was expecting. However, I am thankful for all the time I had at Juniata and all the lessons I learned while I was there. Thank you, Juniata community.

I am proud to announce that I graduated summa sum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. I was also awarded Distinction in my major.

I am proud of myself and all that I was able to accomplish despite my academic, mental, and physical struggles.

As I wrote on my graduation announcement:

Successful despite her Crohn’s Disease. Studied abroad in the Galapagos and lived by Raystown Lake. Loves EVERY water body, scuba diving, science, and connecting with people. In the future, hopes to be able to connect society with their surrounding ecosystem better and help our two worlds coexist together.

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What’s Next?

After graduation and my 22nd birthday festivities were over, I still had work to do! I was still working on my research manuscript with my mentor. I spent the end of May and beginning of June focusing on this paper and writing as much as I could.

I also enjoyed time at home with my family. My mom and I did yoga together weekly and worked on transforming our yard to a meadow. We also all watched a bunch of movies!

Although we were in the midst of a pandemic, having this time at home, even when I was finishing classes, was extremely beneficial to my mental and physical health.

First of all, I was able to better control my Crohn’s Disease through my diet and fitness efforts.

Second, I spent time doing professional development, applying for jobs, and identifying prospective career paths.

During this time, I was able to solidify my summer plans…

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Reef Environmental Education Foundation

I am spending the summer in Key Largo, FL as a Marine Conservation Intern with Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). I will learn more about citizen science through their Volunteer Fish Survey Project and their role in conservation with the invasive lionfish and Nassau Grouper. In addition, I will learn more about my future career options in marine science and outreach.

I also get to dive in the Florida Keys all summer!!!

Super excited to keep you all updated on this opportunity.

Conferences, Classes, & Cheerleading: Senior Year

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

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

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Tour Guide Training

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

Cheerleading

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

Classes Begin

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

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

Working Girl

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

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Conferences

Wyoming: The Cowboy State

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

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

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Down South to Charleston

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

Here are the highlights!

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

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

I also got to try a Peace Pie!!

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San Francisco days, San Francisco nights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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End of Football Cheerleading

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

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Last Traditions/Moments on Campus & in Huntingdon

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

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Mountain Day

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

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

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

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

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

But this day is much more than that.

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Special Olympics

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

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

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

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

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

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Study Abroad Fair

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

Trough Creek State Park

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

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Hydrilla Study on Raystown Lake

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

Raystown Field Station Alumni Retreat

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

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

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Madrigal

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

Senior Year

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

I will always be a Juniatian.

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!

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!

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.

Photo Jun 03, 2 59 22 PM
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.

Photo Jun 04, 8 52 42 AM
Photo Jun 04, 8 52 48 AM
Representing Juniata College
Photo Jun 04, 9 43 11 AM
Friends at orientation
Photo Jun 04, 11 49 45 AM
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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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