In the fourth week Taylor and I finally made it out to Indian Creek to sample our three sites. For the creek side of our experiment, we are looking to the effects of wastewater effluent on the creek. To do this, we are doing water quality test, macroinvertebrate collection, and fish collection via electroshock fishing.
On Monday, we did the electroshock fishing, and this was a great experience for me. Prior to the REEU, I had never performed electroshock fishing, but it is really cool to collect a large variety of fish from the creek by shocking them. The most exciting fish to catch are rainbow and orangethroat darters because of their beautiful coloration. Indian Creek provided a much higher diversity of fish compared to the two ponds. Handling and measuring all the fish we caught over the course of the day can be a bit tiring, but it is also amazing to handle so many fish and see them up close.
We also hit a little bit of a road block with macroinvertebrates, but we are working through it. While we have been collecting data on macroinvertebrates, the data simply was not comprehensive enough for our study, and we needed to go into more detail. In order to do this, Taylor and I have been recollecting our macroinvertebrates, and then storing them in ethanol. Ethanol allows us to preserve the specimens, so we can classify them, and count them. This is a little bit of a time consuming and tedious practice, because picking small macroinvertebrates out from silt and small rocks is a tough task. Furthermore, I do not have a large amount of experience identifying and classifying macroinvertebrates. On the bright side, at least we have been able to enjoy the air conditioning during the hot week.
On Wednesday, Nigel, the graduate mentor for the herps group gave a talk about the process of applying for graduate school. Nigel told us about his experience of applying, being rejected, but eventually getting excepted to a program at Brown University. Being somebody that is considering attending graduate school, this talk was useful in knowing what times I would need to start applying, and how to contact professors that I would be conducting research with.
Also, during the week, Purdue hosted Grandparents University. While our REEU program did not work in conjunction with the event, we still crossed paths with them. It was really cool and interesting to see all of the younger kids (grandchildren) who were interested in nature and will possibly pursue a career in natural resources or environmental sciences. With the onset of global climate change, gaining the interest of the youth is extremely important. Unfortunately, the problems that climate change creates is not going to solve itself, so we need all the help we can get.
Overall, it was a pretty tiring week, but we made progress so that is what matters. It was really nice to be able to electrofish without any issues. So far, electrofishing is probably the most enjoyable part of our research project, simply because it is nice to collect so many different kinds of fish. It is also a bit of a challenge since it is just Taylor and I, and we have to attempt to maximize the amount of fish we can catch with one net. I am excited to go out and do it again.
Next week we get to work on the extension portion of our research project, and our second round of high schoolers arrive. It will be a good experience working with them and seeing what ideas they have for the extension component. Hopefully we can develop something that properly addresses our target audience, communicates our objectives, and provides an overall good experience. I believe outreach is incredibly important, and it will be nice to learn skills that are necessary for good outreach events. Science is incredibly important, but without effective outreach, it is nearly impossible to teach the advancements science makes to the general population.