Saturday, June 17, 2017

Menomonie is Oddly Beautiful

The snippets that I have seen of this charming small town are beautifully odd. Odd in a good way! The first odd thing that I noticed is that professors from different fields are actually interacting with one another. In the application process for this internship, we had to answer questions on what interdisciplinary research means and most importantly what it means to us. I do not remember how I answered the question but I am realizing now that I did not know what interdisciplinary research truly means, how it functions, or how it even looks like until I came to Menomonie. Interdisciplinary research means to use knowledge from a variety of academic fields to approach an issue. I have seen this for the first time in how my team leader and geography professor, Innisfree McKinnon interacts with the biology professor Arthur Kneeland. Arthur is adding his knowledge to our project and even training us on collecting sensitive insect species in streams and rivers. Through this, he is helping the geography team access and map the health of the water in the Red Cedar Watershed.

Is it odd that I find people talking to each other odd? I come from a big research university, the University of California Los Angeles, I thought I knew what research was because every professor at UCLA does some sort of research. But from conversations that I had with professors at UCLA trying to prepare for LAKES REU, I now see that the reason that I was not getting any satisfactory answers was that their research is not collaborative at all. They do not submerge themselves into another field but instead dip there feet in once in a while when they need to. The projects that they are working on might be too specialized or on a large geographical scale to make connections with other fields and the people who live in the areas they study. 

Improving water quality of water bodies is improving the quality of life for citizens in Menomonie. One field can not do this alone and collaboration is necessary. Although we are divided by teams, i.e. geography, biology, anthropology, etc, we are all working with each other to reach this goal. I am confident that what we do and produce together will have a lasting impact. LAKES REU is going to be a wonderful experience because of this quality. 

P.S. Maybe Menomonie is not odd, maybe it is just me. I was sitting in a car with a Arthur and a student named Amber. Both of them are locals.  I was staring out the window and I asked them,"What are those beige long things coming from the ground with the feathery thing on top?"  Amber turns around and says, “Wheat.” And I respond, “OOOOHHHH, that’s the thing that cereal and bread is made from! I have never seen wheat before!” Am I odd for not knowing what wheat looks like until yesterday?

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