Update From Washington, DC

After a few weeks of getting used to waking up early and learning what it’s like to be a D.C. commuter, I am now well acquainted with my research at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I will admit that I initially struggled to get into a groove that allowed me to be productive, while making sure that I was able to get to D.C. on time. My schedule for the reminder of my time in D.C. consists of waking up at 5:40 AM and then catching the 6:40 commuter bus near my house in Prince William County, Virginia which takes me directly to downtown D.C. I usually arrive (traffic permitting) to the Natural History Museum around 8:00 and leave a little after 4:00 PM to catch the 4:30 bus which on most days allows me to arrive home by 6:15, although there have been days that I haven’t gotten home until 7:00. While this was hard for me at first, I now have no problem waking up early and am able to sleep on the bus to  and from D.C. and have learned to go to bed relatively early. I have developed a newfound respect for commuters and anyone else that has to wake up at very early hours of the day.

My research has consisted so far of cleaning up the two databases that other interns, students, and I have worked on. These two databases are the ones that contain data from the Hopkins Cards and that contain information from the primary literature that show insect associations with American chestnuts, as described in my abstract. The main goal of this cleanup is to go through the entries of insects on these databases and research the insect names to determine whether the names of the insects on the cards and literature are the valid taxonomic names. Especially in the Hopkins Cards database, where the cards are over 100 years old, many of the names for the insects on the cards are no longer used. This task took some time to complete, as I had a little under 1000 data entries to go through and research their correct taxonomic names.  While many of the insects’ taxonomic names were correct, there were a significant number that weren’t. In order to find the correct and current names, I had to go through various taxonomic databases to find the valid names of the species. Some were easy to find, while others took a great deal of time, since some of the insect species aren’t very common and therefore are not very well documented. Nevertheless, I have recently finished going through all data entries and have recorded the correct and current taxonomic names. With these updated names for the species, it will be easier for myself and other interested researchers to analyze the insect associations to help further this project. The next step for me is to add more information to the primary literature database, and to begin a database on associations between insects and oak trees, since oak became a dominant tree species when American chestnuts were destroyed by blight.