Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Eco-Life Hacks: Homemade Greek Yogurt

OK, you probably should be a little weary of
someone who eats as many beets as I do. Fair 'nuff.
Nearly two months into my life in State College and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I am already branded as the hippie chick. What do you expect from a biologist turned statistician?! I can't help it though; if people bring up podcasts and DIY kitchen adventures, I'm going to be all up in that conversation. If you join me for dinner you'll notice that my kitchen is fully set up while my dining table is a moving box. Priorities. If my apartment building doesn't have a compost bin but there is one outside of my multivariable calculus course, then I am going to carry my compost to campus in a airtight container and dispose of it responsibly. If you invite me to watch the US/Ghana game, I’m definitely going to bring a healthy snack of veggies and hummus. And if you mention homemade yogurt, then I will get super excited and discuss my love for plain, Greek yogurt made by yours truly. Them’s just the facts.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What's in Her (Field) Bag

Summer is a funny time for an ecologist.  As a student, my classes have all wrapped up (I’m actually all done with class now, forever!!).  My social media is full of people’s summertime adventures.  My partner, who teaches communications courses at community college, is in full on vay-cay mode.  Me?  This is my busy season.  I have been up to my eyeballs in marsh mud for most of the month, and for the month before that I was prepping.  
China Camp State Park.  Maybe my favorite site. 
Ah, the field season.  The first day of the each sampling period, I’m always a huge stress ball.  By the time I visit my last site, I feel like Queen of the Marsh.  One thing I always do to minimize my first day jitters is prepare a packing list for each project I’m working on.  This helps minimize those “Oh crap, I left that sitting on the lab bench” moments.  This packing list is mostly full of project specific items (thermometer, pH probe, redox meter, etc.).  In addition, I have a mental checklist of things I never like to don my waders without.  These items reside in my trusty field bag, and today I’m giving you the grand tour!

I know we have an eclectic readership, from PhDs, fellow students, teachers, and amazing high school science enthusiasts.  Though you might not all be headed out to do field work anytime soon, I hope a look at my “must have” items gives you a taste for what a day in the life of a field scientist can be like.  Think of this as the field biologist’s version of those posts by lifestyle/mom bloggers about what they keep in their purses/diaper bags.*

Trusty field bag!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ten Tips for Tackling that Thesis!

Meridith and Rachel are both in PhD programs, which means dissertation writing will be in their future.  While dissertating will come with its own sets of challenges, they have both managed to survive the process of completing a Masters thesis!  Here are the top ten tips and tricks (in no particular order) they used to keep sane, be productive, and come out the other side.  

1. If you haven't been productive in 15 minutes, then it's time to change locations.

R: First I got work aversion to my desk, then I got work aversion in the stats lab (luckily, after I was done with stats).  I finished writing by visiting (almost) every coffee shop in Long Beach for a few days in a row before I had to move on to my next location.
M: Can someone figure out how to fix the mutual exclusivity of working outside on a sunny day and being able to see your computer screen?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Collaboration Station: Google Drive

Collaboration is a vital part of the scientific process. Do you think I’m going to save the world on my own? Nope. I’m going to need at least a little bit of help. The more great minds working on a project, the faster advancements may be made. And we need advancements (I’m look at you, self-driving car peoples)! Any sort of collaboration is difficult across distances. Technology has made the process easier and email is currently the main tool for communication for researchers. While I’m really proud of the older generations of scientists for getting on track with email, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask them, and everyone, to utilize Google Drive for their collaboration needs.

Being able to access my Google Drive from anywhere keeps me productive!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Science Book Club: Flight Behavior

I love extracurricular activities.  Maybe it’s a holdover from my days doing Speech and Debate, maybe is the fact that I don’t feel like I’m really doing my best unless I am overcommitted by at least 5 hours per week, or maybe I’m still overcompensating for being quite shy and think that these activities will force me to meet more new people.  Either way, I love them.  Most recently, I received an email on our grad group’s social listserve about a book club.  Obviously, sign me up!  Obviously, I didn’t finish the book in time.  I still read it though.  And I adored it.  So, here is a virtual book club to start your summer reading.  Ready, steady, go!

Barbara Kingsolver is well known for her use of vivid imagery in stories which feel both tangible and delicate.  According to her official website, she was born in 1955 in rural Kentucky (southern girl shout out!).  She currently lives in southwestern Virginia.  She is also unique as a fiction writer due to her education, which includes a BS and a MS in biology and environmental sciences.  These themes, of biology and southern culture, are reflected in several of her works.  Are you becoming less and less surprised that I jumped at a chance to read one of her books?  Despite all this, Flight Behavior is the first of Kingsolver’s works I have had the pleasure of reading.  However, after finishing the novel, some of her other popular books have jumped to the top of my reading list, and all her novels are now on my Amazon “Books I want” wishlist (This wish list is public, so feel free to buy me books! Just kidding, but not really). (editor note: I LOVE Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and highly recommend it to Rachel.)    

What is Flight Behavior about?

Set in the Appalachian region of Tennessee, this novel chronicles the fictional migration of a population of monarch butterflies to a fir forest just outside of a remote farming and manufacturing community.  The question of what has brought the butterflies there and their ultimate fate brings together a cast of unlikely characters: the sheep farming family, who own the property the butterflies land upon; the family’s oddball daughter-in-law, who discovers the butterflies; the ecologist and his graduate students, who come to study the insects; the local preacher, who has an unlikely part to play; and the young boy, whose small-town world view is forever altered by the events of the novel.  In the end, the fate of the butterflies becomes more than just a biological question.  It is a question of culture, faith, and what the future holds for all of us.      

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