Friday, June 19, 2015

1000 Miles to a New Home

The LAKES-REU project has allowed me to move away from my hometown of Frederick, MD for the summer. Frederick is a big town with many different areas of life. My house is surrounded by farmland, but is also just a skip away from the part of town that has just about anything you could ever want. My college career takes place a little more north at Delaware Valley University, which is in Doylestown, PA not Delaware, and is a lot like my hometown. Its a small agricultural and science driven school that is allowing me to gain my Bachelor's in Environmental Science, and has introduced me to the LAKES-REU project.

After being accepted, I decided to take the harder route to Menomonie, by taking my car on a 1000 mile journey, over the span of two days. After a very long drive, I arrived in a new world that oddly looked a lot like home except without Mountains. The University here is a lot bigger then my school and the town is a lot smaller then my own, but yet it still has a homey feel to it. The town is really nice, with a very welcoming atmosphere from people who are so excited to meet us. This small town feel just gives me an extra drive to want to help clean up Lake Menomin, especially since I get to use some very cool equipment. My school has the same equipment, but its mostly hand me downs that we purchased from other institutions to save money. This budget management has sadly lead me to have a lack in knowledge of the equipment, but I thankfully will gain that knowledge here.

LAKES-REU seems like a great program that has given me a once in a life-time experience, and I cant wait to get started on. Hopefully these eight weeks will not fly by to fast because I cant wait to soak in the town, the people, and actually make a difference in cleaning up Lake Menomin. 

Introductions and Impressions: Whirlwind Week One

What a whirlwind this week has been! I have been being introduced to new things all week. From the wonderful town of Menomonie, to the electronic spectrophotometer, to the green algae of Tainter Lake, to the plethora of local coffee shops... all of them have left what will be lasting first impressions.
The Summer Dorm Space…Mostly Coffee and Tea

Regarding the town, I am incredibly excited to be in an area and surrounded by people who are passionate about environmental justice, sustainability, green living, and preservation. Additionally, each person (especially within the social science’s group and the interviews they’ll conduct) provides a different perspective, different form of reasoning, and different background to why they believe what they do. These perspectives offer a unique tools to solve the current issues at hand and act preventatively for the future. The beauty of this interdisciplinary work is getting these different perspectives heard and represented. I look forward to participating in this kind of work, which I believe is the work that will truly influence the world for the better and with longevity. 

An Old Impression, Reinvented

My first impression of Menomonie, Wisconsin,  is an old impression. I first arrived here in the Fall of 2012, as a freshman in the Applied Mathematics and Computer Science Major. I was ready to do my work and leave with a degree and a job, but then things changed. I noticed education isn't just about taking a few classes and expanding my job skill, and instead it is about interacting with your environment to gain life and worldly skills. I soon switched major's for Applied Social Science with a focus in History and Politics and picked up a minor in Applied Peace Studies. My story of impressions really starts here at this point because I actually started to see what Menomonie really has to offer. There are plenty of outdoor activities that I could do at various parks inside and outside of town. I noticed the happy townies doing their crazy little festivals, music, and farmer's markets and began to notice how tight knit this town was. But after I saw it, I kind of just forgot about all of the wonderful experiences Menomonie has to offer. With the arrival of all of the 9 other REU Students, I noticed the Menomonie that I had forgotten about the last year.

Birthday Beer, Bikes, and Blue-Green Algae: My First Week in Menomonie

            Although I have only been in Menomonie for 5 days this project has proved to be a great learning experience already. Before traveling here I had never flown alone and the last time I had flown was almost 10 years ago with my family, so getting to Wisconsin on Sunday was an adventure in itself. That Sunday was also very special in that it was my 21st birthday! After arriving on campus, getting unpacked and having a picnic, Dr. Nels Paulson offered to take me out along with some of the LAKES crew to a bar. Having my first legal drink be a Wisconsin beer was an opportunity all in itself.
            The next day we met as a group and got our bikes that afternoon. I have never ridden a bike as a means of transportation before and I love it so far. It is a new kind of freedom. I only have to depend on myself to get from one place to another. Slowly but surely I am feeling less and less lost and I am sure in no time I will feel comfortable getting around on my own. I am one of the few that think Menomonie seems like a big place. I graduated high school with 96 students and I attend a college with less than 600 undergraduate students. In time I am sure that Menomonie will feel smaller and more like home when I become more acquainted with it. Exploring the small shops and cafes in Menomonie has been fun and has reminded me much of home, giving me a sense of belonging.
            The biologists and geochemists have already been getting to work in the field and in the lab. I am part of the biology group and I will be working under Dr. Steve Nold this summer with Lanna Anderson. I have not done much fieldwork before coming here so there is so much I am already learning! Getting in the lab and learning alongside my new peers has been a great experience thus far. Coming from such a small school means that the equipment in our labs is often antiquated. I feel very glad that I will be using better equipment this summer.

            Talk to you soon gracious reader and goodbye for meow!

A little town called Menomonie

My first impression of Menomonie was essentially a little western town. It has a unique style that makes it feel homely. The endless amount of tress are breathtaking because coming from a big city, we lack natures beauty and essence. The beautiful lakes and rivers that flow through the town gives it life. I'm excited to help on the LAKES project in order to ensure that the lakes continue to be as beautiful and (smells good) as long as possible. This is an opportunity to help a wonderful community continue to preserve their lakes.  

Navigating Menomonie

My interests in sustainability arise from yearly trips to visit and live with my family in Guatemala. Scenic volcanoes, clear lakes, bustling cities, and loving relatives fill my memories as a young child, yet are juxtaposed against the more recent memories of air pollution, deforestation and toxic waterways. The accumulation of my experiences in Guatemala made visible the relationship between society, health and the environment, and fueled my interests in environmentalism and sustainability as a high school student. These interests transitioned into passions, and I became an anthropology major to engage in scholarly conversations between humans, culture, and the environment. Entering my fourth year as an anthropology student, I have been fortunate to engage in these conversations through many peer and academic opportunities that have solidified my enthusiasm in applying my passion and knowledge to environmental issues, and more recently the Red Cedar Basin.

Menomonie (muh-nom-uh-nee)

            The first thing I did when I was accepted to this program was look up Menomonie (a name which only upon arriving did I find out I was painfully mispronouncing) on Google maps.  I had never heard of the small town half way across the country from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it is definitely different from where I live.  Menomonie is the sort of small town that has been depicted in movies countless times and seems to embody American values.  I’ll miss the vibrant and boisterous city of Berkeley which has been my home for the past three years, and of course I’ll miss my friends and family, but I am excited to grow to know this small town. 
In many ways Menomonie and the sense of community that I see here is refreshing.  It seems like everyone knows each other here.  People stop to chat on the street and our professors know the names of the people who run the countless small landmarks.  On Tuesday we went to see the Ludington Guard Band, the longest running town band in the country I’ve been told, and I was amazed by the number of people supporting them.  The opportunity to work within this community is thing I am most looking forward to this summer.  It is so exciting to participate in a project that is so closely tied to the community, and it is even more exciting to see a community that actually cares about the project.  Accepting this position I was really just hoping to learn some more about economics and build my resume a bit, but having realized that this research has the potential to actually be meaningful in the community has made me all the more enthusiastic to be a part of this team.  I’m excited to get to work and maybe also drink some Wisconsin beer.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

First Impressions are Lasting Impressions

 For our very first blog post we are supposed to write about our expectations on the civic and work environment. That being said, I should probably start with my first impressions of Menomonie.

As I entered the town of Menomonie, I couldn't help but sigh in relief. It had taken me eighteen hours to arrive to this town that I will now call home for the next two months. As I drove around I couldn't help, but smile to myself. I am hundreds of miles away from home, but somehow North Carolina doesn't seem so far away. Menomonie has found a way to capture the welcoming atmosphere of a small town all while being home to thousands of people. Needless to say, I am in love with Menomonie and all of its coffee and antique shops.

From the Guyanese Amazon to Menomonie, Wisconsin

Devil's Punch Bowl
When I think of the kind of impressions I have of Menomonie,  the first thought in my mind is the breeze that overpowers me when I ride past Lake Menomin on my rented two-wheel bike. It's a feeling of calmness, freshness, as well as a profound feeling of nostalgia. Cradled in rural Dunn county, the atmosphere feels familiar. It feels like the Guyanese Amazon. Memories always seem to hit me,  as I ride past Lake Menomin, of a past summer in South America. The feeling of "being with nature", being separate from the chaos-ness of urban suburbia, from wild cars that roar down the street...this feeling was indeed one that was all too familiar.

New Home for the Summer

As this was our first week working on the LAKES project, our blog topic was whether or not the civic and work environments meet our expectations. In some ways it does, but I was definitely surprised when seeing and finding out more about Lake Menomin.