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.

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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!

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!

Advertisements

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).

Advertisements

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
Advertisements

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!

Advertisements

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!  

Advertisements

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!