Well, it’s here! The start of the very first Purdue University Research and Extension Program for Undergraduates (REEU) has finally come. Once again, I went and involved myself in a research project…how does that keep happening? You know I have always said I would never go into research, but here I am… doing research. *nervous laughter*
Thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve met one person in research that actually had that in mind as their goal. I think often times research finds us; it kind of has a way of falling in our laps. It’s one of those things you love to hate and hate to love (although I don’t know if my relationship with research has gotten to “love” yet.) Maybe this experience will move it a couple steps closer.
Honestly, I had a very small idea what I was really getting myself into when I applied for this position. All I knew at that time was that we would be doing some research and extension work in the Lafayette area & that I would get to do what I enjoy: hanging out with the critters and the trees and you know, all those conservation-y things. I also liked the fact that I would be able to stay in the town I know and love & work with some peers, professors, and graduate/PhD students that I’m comfortable with and highly respect.
In all seriousness, research is the backbone of conservation. Without research, how do we know what/how to manage? It truly is integrated in every aspect of the natural resource field. It can be some of the most frustrating and tiring work ever, yet at the same time, it is so rewarding and extremely important. To know that you are directly contributing to improving the health of our planet is priceless.
I hope this program gives me more self confidence in the branch (Ha, tree pun) of research. My brain thus far has been very field work oriented, simply because it’s what I like and what the Purdue curriculum focuses on. I have never gone through the process of developing a research plan from scratch, so I’m excited for the new challenge. Hopefully, the REEU program lights a spark in me to have the same passion for the in-lab and data analysis components of research that I do for the more hands-on aspects of conservation and management. Although I will say, I’m having a really hard time envisioning myself enjoying statistics.
I feel really blessed to be one of the ten undergraduates involved in this program. It’s only the first week, and I already can tell it’s going to be a super great and memorable experience. I’ve made some new friends with the students from other schools, and the mentors are great. We’ve gone on a couple of hikes and have started to develop our projects. We’ve also already had a couple of neat encounters in the woods already, like stumbling upon a very young fawn waiting on its mama to come back, and that time Garret Cooney caught a smooth earth snake. That guy is like herp magnet.
Anyway, I’m really excited for the next 7 weeks. I expect to learn a lot from the program and have even more fun! I’m going to latch on to any opportunity to learn new things, be challenged, and grow in the field I’ve come to love so much throughout the past few years at Purdue.
Until next time... Emily