The first two weeks here at Purdue for the 2019 REEU Program have flown by. In the first week, our cohort had the opportunity to visit Prophetstown State Park. At Prophetstown we explored through the fen and forested area and found soft-shell turtles and other awesome organisms. We also had the opportunity to visit a property owned by NICHES Land Trust and got to see what a land steward does. Later in the week we learned about mentoring, and how we can better ourselves as mentors and mentees. While all of that was exciting, the best part was being able to start our research projects that we could craft with our fellow undergrad team member, our grad student mentor, and faculty mentors. My research partner Taylor and I were quickly able to develop our title and focus for our research project. Our project will assess the human impact on aquatic communities. Furthermore, we will be assessing agricultural impacts on three ponds located in Purdue University owned properties, and the impact on wastewater effluent on Indian Creek. By the end of the week, we were looking at possible research sites, and got to see what we would actually be measuring in the field. Looking at our possible sites gave us a better understanding of what methods we wanted to use to conduct research, and this was valuable information because we were starting to craft our research proposal. We spent Friday working on our proposal, and by then the week had already zoomed by.
In the second week we continued working on our research proposals and crafted our presentation to give to the cohort. After Taylor and I finished our initial draft of the proposal, we, along with our Grad Mentor Liz went and talked to Dr. Sepulveda about our research. Dr. Sepulveda gave us helpful tips and further direction and tweaks for our proposal. During the week we visited two of our sites at Indian Creek and electrofished them. Unfortunately, we had some issues with the equipment, but we were later able to resolve the issue. It was very interesting to perform electroshock fishing because it was the first time that I did it. On Thursday we presented our proposal to the cohort and received plenty of constructive criticism, and other things to think about during research. This was extremely helpful, and it was really good experience for presenting future research. I have learned so much about creating research proposals, stream wildlife, and water quality in the first two weeks. Hands-on research like this is something that I haven’t had a lot of experience with in the past, and I never have created my own research project. I have gained so much valuable knowledge and I am very pleased with the experience so far. I am excited for all the knowledge and experiences that I will obtain over the next six weeks.
I am looking forward to getting out more in the field and collecting data. It will be very interesting to analyze the impacts of agriculture and waste water effluent on the surrounding aquatic communities. Things have been going really well so far, and I hope that it stays that way! However, even if things go wrong we will adapt and overcome. Either way there is still much of the REEU experience to go, and I’m excited for that.