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  • Alyssa Cepeda

Alyssa's Farewell - Week 8

the group jumping in the sand at the dunes

The final week of this internship has come! It has been a very eventful last week. Garret and I began analyzing our data first thing into the week (with the help from our graduate mentor Jessica). I enjoyed learning about the data analyzation part of research. I noticed there is a lot more for me to learn in this field, which I am excited for. This week has been filled with a lot of nerves and excitement as we prepared for our final presentation and poster sessions. Garret and I have been working hard trying to get everything done as a team. I’m excited to share our findings with everyone and hear how everything went for the other groups as well.

Reflecting on these past eight weeks has been very emotional and bittersweet for me. I am still in awe on how fast time seemed to fly by. At first, it seemed like we had all the time in the world and I was eager to dive into my research project. We were bouncing ideas off of each other and planning ahead everything we wanted to do with our project. Half way through the internship, it seemed like time was moving way too slow. Garret and I worked countless hours out in the field. From digging and burying our pitfall traps under the steaming hot sun to falling into the mud in the middle of a wetland with our waders. Stress, exhaustion, and perseverance were all the things I felt at the time and I couldn’t wait to reach the finish line. Now, here I am-- just one step closer to the finish line and I don’t know where the time has gone! It definitely is a bittersweet feeling.

The bitter part of it all was how hard things seemed at the moment. I remember having to get up early in the morning, before the sun was even out, in order to do our bird surveys. My body was up and moving before my brain was even fully functioning. I’m sure Garret felt the same way. I will never forget the day we spent setting up our pitfall traps and it felt like the sun was just draining the life out of us (that sounds a bit too dramatic but in the moment it sure did feel that way). We walked back into the classroom and everyone stared at us like they’ve seen a ghost. I’m pretty sure Megan pointed out that I looked miserable (thanks Megan). Garret and I were literally toast by the end of the day! And that is pretty much how the rest of our days felt like from then on.

The sweet part of it all is to be able to say... WE DID THAT! Garret and I accomplished everything we aimed for and I am so proud of us both. We worked hard every single day even though we were exhausted, not once did we not give it our 110%. I would definitely say that the entire experience was more than I expected in the best way. I learned so much, not just about the natural world but with myself as well. I’ve grown through the struggles and obstacles that came my way. With all the workshops and support from others, I feel a lot more confident in my abilities as a learner in this field.

Aside from my research experience, I am so glad to have met some wonderful human beings. To Jenny, Emily, Avery, Mia, Mae, Maggie, Reece, Taylor, and Garret: it has been a great eight weeks with you all. One thing that I appreciated the most was how we all had different backgrounds and experiences, but still learned a whole lot from each other. As the youngest in the group, I can genuinely say that I know you will all do great upon your last year of college and the years after that in whatever it is you choose to do. The passion you all have for natural resources and the environment can be seen from a mile away. It has been a fulfilling experience with you all. To Megan and Dr. Flaherty, thank you for all you’ve done to support us. I understand you both had your fair share of maybe frustrating/stressful moments. The feedback and guidance you both have shared will go a long way with us. Thank you for making this all possible.

Initially, I decided to apply for this internship simply because I love learning new things, especially in the field of natural resources and the environment in general. I can confidently say that this internship has fueled my passion for natural resources and I realize that I have a lot more to learn-- and I’m okay with that! I’m more confident in my abilities to do research, speak about my research, and dealing with the ups and downs that come my way. I owe that all to this REEU Internship experience. Not only do I feel more confident in my abilities but I also feel more confident with my passion for the natural world.

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