The Art of Troubleshooting

As I have touched on in some previous posts, one of the most important things I experienced first hand this summer was the importance of troubleshooting. After reading through some other grant recipients’ blog posts, it appears that many other students had similar discoveries. 


Pretty much every aspect of my project had to be adjusted from the original methods, if not completely redone. Although it sounded straightforward on paper, our strategy for data transcription took a couple meetings to hammer out. We had took answer unforeseen questions, learn how to use audio analysis software, and convert files. Using the spectrometer for visual analysis went in a similar direction. We repeatedly had issues with settings and keeping the machine calibrated, leading to have to redo a couple weeks’ worth of work. Lastly, I decided to add on a component to my project – fluctuating asymmetry. Fluctuating asymmetry examines if there is a relationship between stress and asymmetries in the individuals – in this case, if there were asymmetries in the centermost tail feathers. Because of this addition, I had to work quickly to do two additional replicates of every feather length and weight measurement


Although the tribulations my peers and I went through may have been frustrating, I’m very grateful to have experienced this trial and error process. It truly is integral to the scientific process. Unexpected issues arise more often than not, and those in scientific research have to be able keep a level head and solve problems. My graduate student mentors and my advisors were incredibly helpful and supportive throughout this experience and served as great role models. I’m thankful to have spent this summer doing research and learning the ins and outs of the process!