Hello there! Maggie again. I am now finished with week two and I can’t express how happy I am with the dynamic Mae, Nigel and I share. Mae is my research partner and Nigel is our mentor. I can’t express my happiness without bringing up our professor mentor, Dr. Bernal. She is full of creativity and guidance. They are all amazing people. I can’t believe everything that we have accomplished so far. I’m so proud of our little team. Even though I feel we make a great team, I can see how well the other teams work with their mentors too. To top it all, the students get along as well. We are a rowdy, enthusiastic bunch and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Our first week here was all about team building, safety, careers, and professional development. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we spent the afternoons brainstorming, searching literature, and developing the skeleton for our research proposal. On Tuesday we took a field trip to NICHES land trust and learned all about Butternut Trees, Oaks, Maples, and Honey suckle bushes filled with thorns. We ventured into the forest and I spotted a fawn! It wasn’t until Thursday that we toured Martell and Purdue’s Wildlife Area (PWA) and really developed project plans. At PWA we met two men, Brian and Ryan, who both showed devotion and passion of managing land in their own way. They told us how they started and what paths they chose to get to their careers. They were both good field trips and made me feel thankful for the major I pursued.
This week was a lot different. We devoted far more time to our projects and dove in deep, head-first, into literature search and writing. Sometimes that can be the most tedious part because a strong question and hypothesis must be developed. By Monday, we had half of our proposal written and were still brainstorming with Nigel on its thoroughness. Tuesday came along, and we continued to write and develop our power point presentation, continuously refining our proposal. Brandon, one of the mentors on board, gave a presentation on his research project that he was doing. He explained to us that it takes a whole village to finish a research project. He showed us all his contributors, affiliates and mentors, and it was easy to see that it was a lot. On Wednesday, we turned in our proposals and got ready to present projects the following day. I worked on our project by coating 3-D printed plastic toad models in clay. The reason we are using clay models in our project is to have a way to examine predation activity in habitat. The clay stays malleable, so upon retrieval it is extremely easy to record attack marks. Although it seemed like an art project, and a simple enough task, it became repetitive and tedious after some time. However, I take pride in my work and made some pretty nice models!
Without Clay! With Clay!
By Thursday, we were ready to present. Mae and I practiced a few times before presenting. That was good for us because it can be nerve wracking sometimes to speak in front of an audience. We also had time afterwards for questions to be asked. The benefit of this is that more input and ideas are created for projects because everyone has knowledge and different perspectives to share. Today however, has probably been the best day so far. We got to watch Dr. Dunning, the only master birder in Indiana, and my previous professor, take measurements of birds and put small, labeled, aluminum bands around their ankles. In my four years at Purdue, I never participated in that type of field work; being my first time, I was fascinated. I had such a fun time.
When we finished our time bird-banding, Mae, Nigel and I grabbed some field equipment, inputted coordinates into our GPS, and set out to conduct our first field pilot study. Our plan is to conduct 8 transects per deployment of 3-d clay models into the field. Well…today we only conducted 2 transects. A big part of research is trial and error. We were able to see the areas upon which we could improve or use more tactical strategies. When we returned to Martell, we developed a strategy for the next time that we were to deploy our models. Each day we get better and better! I am excited to see what the third week has in store for us.