Monday, August 3, 2015

One Recipe for an Amazing Summer Research Experience

Our creative and amazing students gave us a blog post assignment this time around, and I have to say that I’ve found it daunting. Sorry, y’all, but I’m tweaking it a bit. The acrostic poems became haikus about my advisees, and I’m sorry to report that I just couldn’t find any embarrassing pictures. I know everyone is disappointed.

When I think about first impressions of my two students, Eniola and Melanie, I have to go back to their applications. Both of them immediately stood out to me as students I wanted to work with. They had thoughtful explanations of their interests in environmental anthropology, clear enthusiasm for working on the REU and with their fellow students, an amazing background in anthropology including fieldwork experience, and impressive letters of recommendation. I was definitely excited about prospect of working with them, anxiously awaited their acceptance, and looked forward to meeting them.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

How to Deal with Being Overwhelmed: Why LAKES REU Students are so Awesome

I get overwhelmed with so many important priorities in my life.  Most of you know how I feel.  I Co-Direct the LAKES program, which is a tremendous privilege I take seriously.  I have other priorities in life, like my family, teaching, exercise, involvement in civil society, friends, etc., etc., etc.  We really don't set ourselves up to deal with these things well in modern society, in spite of our efforts to improve "efficiency".  I will continue to criticize the modern political economy and the culture behind it for various, important reasons, but we all still have to deal with it on a daily basis nonetheless.  So how do you deal with being overwhelmed?  I argue that you surround yourself with awesome people (as I have discussed here and here and here before).  This summer I am proud to have many such students and colleagues I can lean on in the LAKES REU.  This blog post is a reflection on two of those students, Yanira Campos and Josh Herron (read on- I suspect you will fall in love with them, too).

Friday, July 24, 2015

Updates on 2014 LAKES REU Alumni

We have received many inquiries about how all of last year's students are doing now.  They set the stage for all the amazing research we are doing this summer, and we are very grateful.  I asked them to send along updates that I could put on our blog.  They are all quite busy, but those who were able to send an update (in the quick week turnaround I gave them) are offered here.  We are so proud of all of them!!  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Different Methods, One Goal

Our goal here at the LAKES project is to make a dramatic change to the watershed over a long period of time, because there is no cure all for cleaning our lakes and rivers. Interdisciplinary research allows for us to understand all parts of the project and more overtly the problem. My different experiences in the program so far have left me with an understanding of all the different aspects of the lakes, rivers, political climate, volunteer willingness, and participation of local organizations. These experiences can be summed up to different methods to one greater goal.

The first interdisciplinary experience that I had in the program was doing transcriptions for the Anthropologists. I thought it was exciting, which is really weird, because I was sitting in front of a computer with a fancy stop and go foot pedal that allowed me to hear the interview at my pace. Needless to say, I spent the first twenty minutes just typing and didn't know what I was typing. So I went back and listened. The conversation was so intriguing and central to my own research that I took some side notes as to why there were  different experiences between farmers and county workers. Some of these statements have been central to my research on farmers and the establishment of farmer led councils.

How to Become a Well Rounded Person

Either in the work place, at school, or just in the real world it is very important to be a well rounded individual. You don't want to be all book smarts with no real life experiences, or vice versa. The reason being is that you can gain valuable information from books, just as you can from experiencing events in the world. The real world also teaches you how to socialize and build friendships, which can end up being used in the future for more information or just a way to just get away from the world.

I personally have tried to be well rounded by being the best student I can be, but also by having my hands in everything from Greek related events to making connections with the staff at my school, and now here at UW-Stout. Last week I was lucky enough to go out with the sociology group, in particular with Josh since we were able to split the groups because of my car. It was a nice experience to get back into the field, but this time not in the creeks or trapped in a cold lab. I enjoyed talking to the a fair amount of farmers, with one even letting us crank start his Model-T!! I learned a good bit from what the farmers had to say about their land, instead of learning about BMP (Best Management Practices) at my school. This knowledge is useful towards my project because we are looking at the phosphorous in creeks and its nice to hear from part of the source of phosphorous that I am studying this summer. Another thing I learned was that the Sociologists usually don't get the luck we did with catching farmers at the exact time before they went to another field or took a break. Normally from what I was told is that they just get turned down, which makes it hard to get data; something us Natural Science kids don't deal with because our biggest problem is weather. The other interdisciplinary activities I have gained is stuffing letters for surveys, which I have done with economists and Sociologists. It is long and hard work but its one of the ways that they can get data, and since they are shipping suitcases full of letters then I will be happy to help. Plus I have realized I am a letter packing machine!

From letter packing and interviewing to a cold lab and some creeks, this REU program has given me and will keep given me an experience that will allow me to keep rounding myself out and becoming a better and more educated person. I advise that everyone takes some part in an interdisciplinary life style at least once in their life.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Distant Cousins and Opposite Friends


I've come to realize Sociology and Anthropology are more of distant but close cousins. In talking to some sociology majors in my department, they were the first ones to explain this relationship, as distant cousins, between the two disciplines to me. Of course I wasn't pleased with their answer. I thought they were putting anthropology down for whatever reason and didn't want to be associated with it. But the more sociology classes I took, the more I saw the vast difference. In shadowing Yani and Josh, I think I've truly been able to come to terms with that difference. Even in fields that some might consider very similar, each still bring a different and unique perspective to the table.

Strength in Numbers

Some of us canvasing at Freedom Fest, Wakanda Park.

It has been a great experience learning what everyone in the LAKES REU program is doing this summer. Over the past two weeks I got the chance to work with Josh and Yanira, the sociologists, and Megan and Lisette, the economists. I also spend Friday mornings with the geochemists at journal club where we discuss primary literature that will help us to better understand the problem at hand by looking at studies done on situations similar to ours. With both the economists and the sociologists we got together and ate pizza and stuffed envelopes with surveys to send to farmers and other members of the community within the Red Cedar watershed. With Lisette and Megan we also attended Freedom Fest at Wakanda Park to canvas. It was a great opportunity to interact with community members and it is something I have never had the chance to do before. Yanira, Josh, Lisette and Megan also came out on the boat with Lanna and I and helped us with water sampling. The two methods of data collection for our projects could not be more different but we are all working toward the same goal, to clean the lake. Lanna and I, as biologists, are working to obtain data that can make a statement about the lake’s health, how it changes over the summer months, how cyanobacteria blooms develop and how all of this is influenced by the changing concentration of phosphorous. Though without the work of the social scientists the research would end with the natural scientists and we would be stuck. We need to know exactly who to give the information that we find to, how to best present it and ultimately propose a solution that is best for the entire community. It is crucial that we continue to work together because that is how real change will happen. Seeing how our projects come together to meet our goal had been a really meaningful part of this interdisciplinary experience.