Thursday, June 7, 2012

I'm back at it!

Well lets just say I got a little sidetracked for a week or so.

I've been meaning to update all the interesting experiences that occurred, but life just threw itself at me. Anywho,  I'm back ready to update and inform anyone willing to listen!

So, last week was the Soils Workshop. Which entailed me helping out Deb by collecting heaping shovelfuls of wetland soils. The preparation to do this was not easy though. For one thing, hot muggy weather mixed with the moist wetland territory creates a mosquito haven. Boy did they love my blood! Twenty bites later and I live to tell the tale and to advise people to use bug spray. Geez.

Deb and I were the only two that day collecting samples. We used these weird shovel-like things called augers to get soil cores. This allowed us to view the different types of soil types within an area without mixing the soil layers together. Kudos to those things for getting the job done! One of the most fascinating things about one on ones with professors when you are outside of the classroom is the information you can pull out of them.

Deb opened up to me on a different level after I picked her brain about tree physics and how plants adapt to certain wetland conditions. It started when I was given the task to cut down little plants in the area so she could conduct her wetland workshop for the next day. As I chopped and swatted the plants away from the newly created path, I mentioned something about not wanting to do this all summer because some people do trail maintenance for jobs and internships etc. (FYI I must hand it to the people who do keep the hiking trails free of random debris) Deb went on to mention how she participated in such a program that made her perform such tasks which lasted 2 weeks. Because she went in single, she wanted to scope out the men in the program,which she specifically said to me that under her intense circumstances and sweaty dirty conditions she did not "hook up" with anyone. Yes my adviser used the phrase "hook up" and told me a little bit about her sex life.

This came as a shocker to me because I'm not used to hearing professors talk about their outside lives. I usually just feed off the knowledge they give me about the subject they teach. Basically, I opened the door into her personal life. This made me intrigued to see what else I could pull out of her. For some reason, I don't think the paid intern has this sort of connection with Deb. Hmmm.

Soils preparation and workshop completed! Connecting with Deb on a more personal level, check!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Workshop on Wetland Plants

As I sit at home I start reminiscing on the intense day I had yesterday....the day of the workshop. It's wild to think I was in a completely different place than my humble home with my parents and sister. My apartment already feels like a place to call a second home. Oh, how I already miss it.

So reminiscing time. After I dragged my tired body out of the black little Ford Focus and thanked my sister for the ride, my started out my waking hours in a haze. My adviser instructed me to enter the chilly cooler and get out the chilled water bottles containing plants. These chilling plants were spread out over 4 tables and little ID cards placed under them. Now all I had to do is wait for the attendees and of course the munchies that would satisfy my grumbling stomach. Free breakfast of coffee, donuts and bagels! Mouthwatering goodness.

As the people started trickling in with their complimentary binders filled with Powerpoint notes of wetland plants, the other intern and I couldn't help but wonder how this workshop would pan out. A couple hours of listening to interesting ways to identify wetland plants from non-wetland plants, passing out branches of Ash and Red Maple plus other plants, and a short break to eat the breakfast delicacies killed the time before the entire class headed out into the field to do some REAL identifying.

With Newcomes Wildflower book in hand, I surprisingly could conclude the identity of at least 10 or more plants among the thousands. I gave myself a pat on the back! When it was time to go back to campus and return to the real world, the class gathered around Deb and she reviewed some of the plants nearest her vicinity. Rachel and I needed to take off the yellow stripes of plastic that Deb wrapped around some of the wild plants while the group was distracted by her farewell speech.

Back in the classroom, Deb talked with Rachel and I about next weeks soils workshop and how little preparation was needed; she insisted I help her next Wednesday with it, so cha-ching for making a good impression! Before Rachel and I left, Deb presented us with gifts of her appreciation. A Tiners Wetland Plant ID book! What?!?! I wanted one of these like the entire day, and she wants to freely give me one?!
Of course I thanked her and smiled for about 5 minutes. I didn't think she liked me this much... what a great adviser! I wonder what the soils workshop will be like?!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wetland Workshop preparation

Today my adviser called me in intern! I didn't think she thought of me like that, but I guess she wants to keep me around for the summer. I have been emailing her back and forth over the spring semester telling her I'm interested in helping her with what she needs over the summer, but I never thought she'd label me as her intern. I'm honored honestly. Go researching soil science!

My first day as her helper consisted of strapping on some waterproof boots, hosing myself down with some bug spray, and sloshing through the wetland areas around the Amherst area. It wasn't exactly the mosquitoes
I was most concerned with surprisingly enough. It was the scorching, half-protected by the ozone layer sunlight. Man, my poor shoulders are angry with me now. So back to the to do list.

Deb, my adviser, wished for me to identify and check off plants pertaining specifically to the wetland areas. It was more like she did the identifying and I did the checking off, but still I enjoyed it all the same! I already started learning the different plants in the area. Partridge berry. Wintergreen. Ash tree. Red Maple. Water Hemlock. Blue Flag Iris. Soft Rush. And many more! Rachel, the other intern, and I placed the bundles of specimens into a reusable shopping bag and crossed our fingers that the silly plants wouldn't wilt too much before we revived them with delicious and refreshing bucket water "chilling" back in the Jeep.

After collecting her long list of wetland plants, the journey back to the lab was a beautiful one. A deserted horse field covered in Buttercups mesmerized me as Deb, Rachel, and I shared stories and views on ghostly spirits. (Which I do believe in) The scenery around Amherst always keeps me entertained and my plant loving cravings fed every time I look out almost any window in a car.

In the lab, sorting of the bundled and tagged plants began after a little numnuming of our lunches that awaited our arrive in the plant cooler. I sat down with my peanut butter sandwich I barely scrounged up from the limited supply of food pickings in the apartment, dried cherries from some random container I brought over from my dorm, and an Super Protein Odwalla bar purchased from the UMass fine dining place called BlueWall when I splurged on spending my extra swipes left on my Ucard. Deb and Rachel chowed down on the standard PB&J and some chips. It was a good break before diving back into the plant world.

So many plants needed sorting! Not weeds.... plants! They are valuable creatures and deserve to be respected. There must have been 100 plants. All of the bundles were placed in the half filled water bottles Deb collected over her times of specimen collecting. So many water bottles! Plastic...I frown on it sometimes. Especially water bottles. Just get a reusable geez. But I digress. In and out of the cooler I went, after numbers were called and matched with cards, and I had a grasp on what a long day of hard work felt like once again. I sat down on one of the black tables and Deb had us double check an ID. It was Wool Grass, which has little clustered fuzzies as flowers in a umbel arrangement hence the name "Wool Grass."

Deb set us free. I took my first ride on the 31 bus back to "home." Some grinders, donuts and Slurpees were consumed by my sis and I. She left to visit her ex-girlfriend and I ventured back to 7 Eleven for another slurpee. But this time I bought one of these bad boys! (Yes that is Beaker, my favorite Muppet, in the background! I call him Meep sometimes though) Thor, the best Avenger!
There still some of this super hero Mango Slurpee left in the fridge for the morning rush out the door at 7:30am. Another update. The bracelet I made last summer during a farming experience in June...well it just broke. That probably means I no longer need to be reminded of all the good memories it held since this summer starts a whole new memory recording.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The beginning

As the phrase goes.. sharing is caring. So why not?

This blog is meant to endure, outlast, shine upon, paint, highlight and acknowledge my summer of 2012. I already feel that it is going to be a different one. What ever comes to mind, on a hopefully daily basis will be updated in this space. Interestingly enough, I have never done anything like this... so blogging adds to my new experiences of this summer. Starting with today.

Yesterday, was my first night in my first apartment. Yes...first. I spent it with my sister who will be living with me. Junior year in college. Two more years for me to go. This will be my sister's last, so I have to live it out to the extreme. I already know I will miss her when she bursts through the college bubble. But it is still the summer, so I don't want to think about that just yet. Big plans for the next few months.

Lets see. My plans. Well, I'll be working at a hotel as a check in- check out person. Shifts will last 8 hours, so what does that mean? Sometimes I'll have ALOT of downtime; but when I'm not sitting on my computer or reading a juicy book while I wait for people, I'll be tending to the needs of those who get locked out of their rooms, or might need an extra towel etc.? Still not entirely sure on the job description, but I can't wait to get started! What else?

My adviser requests I help her with research with soil science and wetland plants! I'm not quite sure if these are my forte as an environmental science major, but this type of research will clarify that for me. Also, I wish to help some of my iCons professors to expand the knowledge out to others about the iCons program. iCons stands for integrated concentrations in science, and is basically a collaborative team based class that uses group members specific skills to the max in hopes to solve real world problems! Such a good class! Supposedly, they wish to make a movie of everyone who is sticking around for the summer, so I get first dibs on parts probably since I was so enthusiastic about helping them with projects. I'll see how everything goes. June is when everything really starts up... so until then life will center around home life.