This week of the REEU was preparation for the extension component of the program. To help us prepare for our upcoming extension events, high schoolers from across the country came to Purdue. They stayed from Monday to Wednesday, and had a presentation at the end of their three day experience. Having the high schoolers around was actually extremely helpful, because they helped test out the games we were using for our extension activities. Testing out a variety of extension focused games helped open my eyes to a variety of games that we could use for the upcoming PALS event, and Riverfest. The high schoolers really had a passion for the environment, so it was nice knowing that we were getting helped by people that were actually interested.
On Wednesday, Taylor and I put together all the materials that we needed for our extension activities. We also performed brief trials for one of our games, and then made adjustments from there. We had some hiccups in our designs, but we were able to find solutions to the problems. In the afternoon, Garrett led the high schoolers and I to look for snakes in Martell, PWA, and Lugar. We ended up finding multiple Dekay’s Brown Snakes under a coverboard in Lugar. The high schoolers and I got the chance to hold the snakes, and it was cool to flip over the coverboards and see what was underneath them. We were not able to find any snakes at Martell or PWA, but it was still fun to look for them.
On Independence Day, we had a nice brunch at Dr. Flaherty’s house, and we were joined by a group of dogs (some were Dr. Flaherty’s, the others were from the interns) as well. Also, Mae, Garrett, Mia, and I went on a fountain run across Purdue. This was definitely a different experience, but it was fun to take part in one of Purdue’s long running traditions. Furthermore, it was a great way to cool off on a hot day. Finally, we had dinner and a bonfire at Megan’s house. We grilled burgers and hot dogs, enjoyed pasta and potato salad, and watermelon. Over the bonfire we made s’mores and roasted marshmallows. The day off provided a nice break in a week that was filled with event planning which was tiring.
Since Taylor and I finished our extension project earlier in the week, we had Friday to continue sorting through our macroinvertebrates. On Friday, we sorted through the macroinvertebrates from Martell Pond and the PWA Ponds. The smell of the samples from the bag were awful! After being stored in plastic bags for a couple days, the water samples developed a putrid smell. However, the samples did produce some large larva, and some of them were macros that Taylor and I have never seen before. We will have to continue to sort the samples, and we will also be collecting more samples from the ponds and Indian Creek as well.
Looking forward to next week, I am excited to put our extension activity to use for the PALS event on Monday, and for RiverFest on Saturday. While taking our research and translating it to the general population is tough, it is also really rewarding. It is also great experience, and educating the youth is very important. If each kid takes one thing away from our activities, then it is a success, and it may lead to them discovering their passion for the environment and natural resources. Also, Taylor and I will be continuing our data collection, and will conduct tests at the ponds for the final time. I am sure that we will have more snapping turtles caught in our nets, but hopefully we get more fish. It is crazy that we are already done with five weeks of the program, time has really been flying by. These next three weeks are going to be very busy, and it is going to be a bit of a crunch to finish all of our data collection and analysis. I am excited for the challenge, and we will see how it goes!