Summer Reflections

This summer has been very different from what I thought it would be. I’ve been working by myself most of the time, and often a 40-minute hike into the middle of the woods. The kind of identification I was doing out in the field was not something I had ever done on my own before, without anyone more knowledgeable there to direct questions to. I’ve definitely become more self-sufficient, or at the very least have more faith in myself that I can do this kind of work alone if need be. Now knowing the scientific names for many of the plants in the College Woods is also a plus.

While it might not be as significant of an improvement, I know I’ve become more used to the Virginia summer heat and humidity. Doing field work seven or eight hours a day in the middle of summer was something I was dreading, but it went better than I expected. I’ve learned that it’s very much necessary to take breaks and bring more water than you think you’ll need. I’m also much less fazed by the insects in the woods. I was never too unnerved by insects to begin with, but sitting or kneeling on the forest floor every day means I was right on their level the whole summer.

Something else that I’ve gained an appreciation for after this summer is the issues that come with data input and analysis. Before this, I didn’t completely understand why it was no important that everyone input their data in the exact same format, or why people needed to thoroughly error check their data. During the course of the summer, I spent at least two full weeks’ worth of time, if not more, fixing and error checking previous students’ data. I never realized that simple data editing would take that long. If I didn’t have this summer to work on this, I don’t know when I would have found the time to get it done.

I am very glad for the experiences that I’ve had this summer. I had been considering doing some variety of field research after college, but I wasn’t sure if it was something I would want to look into. After this summer, I know that field work is something I am capable of and enjoy doing, even in extreme heat. I also think that having the experience of completing a project on my own is something that graduate school and employers will appreciate, and will hopefully help me out when I’m doing more of my own projects in the future.

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