Winding Down

I cannot believe that I will soon be done working at the Natural History Museum soon. It seems like it was yesterday that I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 AM to catch a bus to D.C. for my first day of work. Now, waking up that early hardly annoys me and it’s so much fun going into D.C. every week day. Not only am I conducting research, but I am also learning what it is like for many people who have to commute every day for their jobs. Like I said in an earlier post, I have definitely gained a greater appreciation for people who have to partake in this commute every work day for their entire careers. While I have gotten used to the commute, I don’t know if I could do this for a long-term job. This summer has truly been a learning experience in more ways than just research.

I have now moved on to searching and scanning cards at the Smithsonian that deal with insect associations with oak trees. This is because oak trees, particularly red oak, have taken over the ecosystems that American chestnuts once dominated before the introduction of blight. By using the natural history data that I’ve been scanning for both chestnuts and oaks, I will be able to gain a better understanding of what insects became extinct after the introduction of blight and what insects are still alive, but have adapted to thrive around oak trees. By the end of the summer, I will have around 15000 scanned cards that I will be bringing back to William and Mary to analyze and database to further this project. I admit that it will take some time to accomplish this feat, but this is a necessary component of this project, since hardly anything is known about how blight affected insect populations and it is imperative to gain an understanding of what is already known to determine the next step. I am excited to see what these cards tell me once I’m able to analyze them.


  1. melissahey says:

    We’re so excited to have you back on campus! Have you been able to spend enough time as to have a rough estimate of how many species of insects may have adapted to the red oaks from the American chestnut? Or are there any trends that you hypothesize will come up from your further investigations? I’m unsure of how quickly blight kills the chestnuts, but I feel that differential resource utilization would affect how long an insect can keep using the tree. One that feeds on leaves, for example, may be able to stay around chestnuts longer than one that reproduces on or in the tree.

  2. The D.C. commute even from somewhere in NOVA is definitely a challenge that so many people face every day! It’s great that you’ve had this experience not only for the research aspect but also so you can realize the kind of job and commute you could not handle long-term. It seems that many people get stuck having to commute a draining two hours one way to a job that they may or may not love but they stick with it because it’s their job. So know you now how not to get stuck in that rut! I’m interested to hear about your further insect findings in lab meetings this semester!