Some Direction

I was a little hazy on what I’d actually be doing this summer. Would I be helping someone else with her research? Would I be using data that was already collected? Or would I be messing around until I had the opportunity to head to Maine and Vermont to collect new data? It turns out I’m doing a little bit of each. There is an incredible amount of data being used for a matrix model that has been in the works longer than I’ve been at W&M, and I am helping sort through it, picking out funky pieces of data and marking them so they can be checked with the real trees when we take the trip to Maine. I am also using the current data to practice my modeling skills. One goal for the summer is having a functional model for the Maine data. I am using a statistical program, R, that is very different than Python ( the language I’ve used so far in my CS classes), and I spend a significant amount of time just trying to find proper syntax and functions for the things I want to do. Once more data is collected, there will be two years of data collected from the Vermont site, and I spend time this fall building a new model for a new set of data.

I’ve spent the past week or so trying to gain my footing as I begin working on this project. Upon arrival last Tuesday I met with my professor, who told me it would be cool to try to make an integral projection model (IPM) instead of a matrix model. Seeing how someone in the lab had already essentially done a matrix model, I agreed. There was just one problem, I had never even heard of an IPM before. A few articles and some meetings with my professor later and I have a good understanding of both what an IPM is and what I’m going to need to do to build one. The conceptual difference between a matrix model and an IPM is that a matrix model uses size classes, and individuals will fit into a class and contribute to the characteristics of that class, while an IPM uses a continuous set of data where each individual is a separate data point, and instead of a 2-dimensional matrix there is a 3-dimensional surface (called a kernel) that projects population growth.


  1. Marshall says:

    I was in the same boat when I started in the summer, as traditionally we have two or three projects we work on, and I only had one project. What I found I was doing was helping other people with their project, and when I obtained enough knowledge, I would branch out and begin researching a similar item.
    Also, I do not envy you having to learn a CS language, I realize research can be burdensome as it is, but compound that with learning a coding language- all I have to say is good luck!