Ravensbrück: Week 4

Last week I turned to examining primary sources. I focused on Wanda Symonowicz’s Beyond Human Endurance: The Ravensbrück Women Tell Their Stories, which provides a selection of reminiscences from twenty former prisoners, all of whom were experimented on during their time in the camp. Published in 1970, Symonowicz’s book was the first to relate the experiences of Ravensbrück women to an English-language audience. It begins with an introduction by former inmate Wanda Kiedrzynska, including a brief overview of camp history and a short section focused on the Nazi medical experiments that occurred in concentration camps across the Reich. Twenty chapters follow, each containing the words of a different inmate, reflecting on some aspect of her experience in Ravensbrück.

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Into the Literature – Research Update #3

After a deeper dive into the results of my review of published local opinions on potential affordable housing projects revealed an important trend regarding attitudes toward individuals facing housing insecurity, I began to explore already existing literature on related subjects to broaden my understanding. One of the most immediate and important topics that came to my attention through this literature review was that of neoliberalism as a politico-economic system and its rise to prominence over the last century. Central to neoliberal doctrine is the celebration of individual achievement, with the underlying expectation that those who have garnered success have done so through dedication and personal will. Such a premise is particularly relevant to my findings because, as discussed in previous blog posts, most opinions on affordable housing use terminology surrounding employment status to justify whether or not new developments are deserved. In other words, a person may merit stable housing only if they contribute to the local economy via productive labor. Through my research, I hope to further explore and theorize how neoliberalism–which is often discussed solely in terms of broad-reaching economics–becomes reproduced between individuals, and how this may influence the ways in which people value one another.

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Herbarium Help: Figuring Out Unknowns

The second part of my research this summer is dealing with the data, both my data from this summer and data from previous years. Part of this means trying to figure out the identify of our “unknowns:” plants that are particularly hard to identify out in the field. Most of the problem comes down to the fact that the majority of the plants we’ve been trying to identify are juveniles less than four years old. There are almost no manuals on how to identify juvenile plants, which can look very different from the adults, so we’ve had to figure most of these out on our own. Each year’s research students working on this project have figured out how to identify a new group of problem plants and their contributions have been invaluable to my research.

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What Deer Browse Actually Looks Like

Considering I’ve been talking about what happens when deer eat too much in an area, I should probably show what this deer browse actually looks like! On an individual plant level, it looks like something has cut a stem clean off, almost as if by pruning shears or a weed eater. A deer will often eat a flower or young shoot whole. They’ll also rip off whole leaves; they don’t usually take one bite out of a leaf and then leave it. The picture below is of an Ampelopsis arborea individual (a native grape often called Peppervine) on campus that was definitely chomped by a deer. On trees and tall shrubs, you can often see a line where deer have reached as high as they can to browse on new shoots.

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Other Denizens of the College Woods

Part of what makes deer overpopulation such a problem is that the damage is not restricted to plant communities. The deer themselves suffer. The higher the population, the more likely diseases are to spread among the deer and the worse these diseases tend to be. The deer are also more likely to starve during the winter if they’ve eaten all of the perennial plants before the early spring growth starts up again. Even more important, by taking out the base of the food chain, over-browsing by deer removes habitat and food needed by other organisms. Once one animal species starts declining because of this, the other species that rely on the first animal for food start being affected as well. If this happens with enough species, it will begin to change the composition of the ecosystem as a whole.

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