Friday, July 3, 2015

Perspective is Everything

Culture. If there is anything I am passionate about it is culture. It is exciting to learn about someone else's beliefs, values, and behaviors. I love studying and the similarities and differences among cultural background.  Learning about new cultures has given me the opportunity to appreciate diversity, but has also giving me the chance to appreciate my own culture. This overlaps into my research because I am able to appreciate someone else's values and ideas. I am interested in human behaviors and how people see the world. Sociology involves studying individuals, groups, societies. If you are able to comprehend their values and beliefs then you will be better able to understand their behaviors and what motivates them. Learning and understanding the behaviors of people is important when going around trying to get insight on how people feel about best management practices and cleaning up the lake.

This picture is from my first fish fry, which is a cultural activity that goes on every Friday in Wisconsin.

Week 3: Passion and Perspective

I'm very fortunate in that this summer's research is something that excites me, something that I'm passionate about, and something that's important. Passionate about phosphorus? Really? Passionate about surface runoff, base flow, and algal blooms? Is that a thing?
Really though, I am passionate about the environment and the people that interact with it everyday. The research I am doing in a well-equipped lab at a university in a small town in Wisconsin is such a small facet of the environment, that could have such huge impacts. That's what excites me.
Beyond having a love for the outdoors (though only a healthy respect for some of the creepy crawlies within it), I also love reading, movies, time with friends and family, and a nice mug of tea. Before coming to Stout, or going to Gustavus Adolphus, or even graduating high school, one of the first jobs I had, which I still love, was being a nanny. I had the privilege of being a nanny to a few families in my neighborhood and babysitting for family friends. I love working with kids. Whether my first job as a nanny, or Vacation Bible School counselor, to my position last summer as a Ministry Outreach Coordinator among Minneapolis youth, I have loved working with kids AND the environment. For the neighbor kids, we went to the park on nature hikes, with VBS students we planted seeds for students to take home and start their own gardens, for my Minneapolis students we planted and maintained urban farms and community gardens.
I am proudly an environmental studies major, within this major I am a social science concentration. I am passionate about the connections between humans and their natural environment. Mostly I am passionate in preserving, protecting, and enhancing the environment and this world so the kids that inspire me get to have the same appreciation and experience as they grow up. Working in a lab in Jarvis Hall of Science in a little town in Wisconsin surrounded by polluted water may seem small and specific, and the factors we are researching may seem strange or even hopeless to some. But, I am excited. I am hopeful. I am blessed to be working with this great group of young people who are just as passionate about this important work and its impacts on the environment.
Students watering a community garden in Minneapolis, MN

Neighbor kids enjoying the lush grass and privacy of the pine trees playing some badminton 
VBS students from Brooklyn, NY enjoying a rainy day in the park

How Living In Suburbia Helped Me Discover My Passion

Chris Ferguson's Picture of me doing what I love doing (and posing)!!!

When I was 12, my mother and I moved into a nice 4-bedroom house in a quiet suburbia located in Virginia. My mom's dream of owning a house had come true. This was a vast improvement from the two bedroom apartment my mother, my three older siblings and I shared while I we lived in New York City. My siblings were at different points in their lives and did not move with us. Even at that age, I was aware that this opportunity was a chance to start a new life, a life like the tweens on disney channel who lived in the suburbs and seemingly had vibrant lives. What I didn't anticipate was how lonely our new home in the suburbs would be.

The drastic change in setting tortured me.

Venice Beach, Los Angeles
Growing up in Southern California, I have had the privilege of only being an hour away from Los Angeles, beaches, mountains and more. Throughout high school and college my free time (and paychecks) have been spent in Los Angeles or on the warm Southern California beaches along the coast. During California's hot summers you can catch me strolling through Venice Beach, grabbing ice cream in Santa Monica, visiting Los Angeles' art museums, and mostly attending music festivals and concerts. Coincidentally, spending the summer in Menomonie has offered me a wonderful opportunity outside of research. As a music festival junkie, I will be attending Euax Claires music festival in two weeks with Lisette Solis! We are so excited to be doing research that we love and getting to partake in our hobbies out in Wisconsin. 

Acorny post on being a treehugger

Backpacking in Point Reyes National Park

            I’ve always really enjoyed being outdoors.  It just doesn’t feel right to me to spend a whole day inside.  I grew up swimming, playing soccer, and camping during the summers with my family.  As I got older I started camping and backpacking with my friends. 
            I took environmental science my senior year and really enjoyed it.  I loved being able to go on a hike and feel like I better understood the world around me.  However, I didn’t see myself seriously pursuing environmentalism further as an academic or professional interest.  I was pretty set on studying development, but I continued to hike, bike, camp, and casually take environmental science courses. 
It wasn’t until my sophomore year when I took a political ecology class that I started to see the connections between environmentalism and the things I was studying.  Before I had failed to see the connections between environmental issues and social issues, but this class helped me understand how interconnected the two are.  I completely rewrote my major concentration to focus on sustainable development and enrolled in biology and the core environmental science class for the next semester.  The next thing I knew I was in upper-division ecology classes and working in a conservation biology lab. 
This is probably as far I will go with science; I don’t think I’ll take any science courses in graduate school or ever be a scientist, but I’ve learned more about environmental science than I ever anticipated.  Moving forward I still plan to focus my studies and career on environmentalism, but probably from a policy or economic perspective.  I think the science courses I’ve taken will help me do this well.  Hopefully, I’ll even be to apply some of the things I’ve learned on this project.  

What is better than a breath fresh air?

Picture from my boat on the Potomac River 
Nothing beats a breath of fresh air, especially when the view after a long hike can take your breath away. I have gone on hikes all across Maryland with my family to find little hidden treasures known as caches. Geocaching was probably one of the first places I truly found Love for the environment because I got to see so many places in world that I would probably have never made the time to go see. As I've grown up I took part in Boy Scouts, Football, Wrestling, and many other activities that force you to be outside, but that long sweaty day does make feel like you actually did something.

The outdoors isn't just for work, its for relaxation too. In Maryland we are lucky enough to have just about every type of environment, except a desert. I feel blessed to have grown in a state that can provide me with so much. 

So how does this drive my research and push me to do great things? Well I have had my best memories in nature and it has lead me to even declare myself as an Environmental Science Major. I Love nature and I want to make sure that everyone can experience what I did, in one way or another. It hurts to see a beautiful lake fall to algal blooms and to know that not to many people will enjoy its beauty because of it. This drives me to keep pushing in the field and the long days in the lab because I know that I am taking a part in making a difference in fixing the problem and hopefully help others create memories that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

Appreciating how the things I enjoy have shaped my views on Research

Lake Menomin June 2015

Some of my favorite things to do include baking, dancing, and spending time with kids. For me, all of these things have influenced my views on life in general, but also have had an impact on the way I view research.

Exploring new and exciting places!!!

One of my favorite things to do is travel. I love visiting new and exciting places that I've never been before. Rather it's a big city like New York City or a little town like Menomonie, its exciting to experience the culture and it's unique beauty. Working with the Biology group this summer, I've realized how important the upkeep of the lakes can attract people to visit and possibly move here. When I first arrived to Menomonie, I immediately noticed how incredibly beautiful the lakes were and how it gave the town a certain glow to it like no other. As week three is coming to a close, it evident that the phosphorus is causing a rapid amount of cyanobacteria, ultimately causing the lakes to turn green and losing its once glorious beauty. By participating in this REU, I hope to come to a resolution that could help the lakes sustain its natural essence. Menomonie is a great place to visit and I hope that many people may one day stumble upon this town and see what it has to offer.

Volleyball and Family Hikes: How This Makes Me Passionate About My Research

Pictured above are some players on my volleyball team, I am number 1.

Catrock, a view along the Appalachian Trail in Pawling, NY.
            I am a person who absolutely has to stay active. I have always been involved in sports and my family has always made a point to get outdoors and explore whenever we can. I play volleyball in college and although it makes my life very busy I have a beautiful family of teammates that I would not give up for anything. My family spends a lot of time hiking, boating, and swimming in New York, especially in the Catskills and along the Appalachian Trail.

So how does any of this relate to my research? Well, being a biologist in this program I am often out on Tainter Lake and Lake Menomin taking water samples and other readings to bring back to the lab and analyze. I am witnessing first hand the gradual increase in the algal bloom. There are less and less people boating and enjoying other forms of lake recreation. As a person who would love to take part in these activities, and see other people be active as well, this makes me passionate about cleaning up this watershed. When I get frustrated or overwhelmed while working on this project I often remind myself of why I am here and the potential impact that my work can have on the environment and the people in this region.