Our second to last week of the REEU program was a busy one. Throughout the week Taylor and I were focused on preparing materials for our upcoming presentation, our poster, and our manuscript for our research. However, this was easier said than done. We had to take all of our data and create figures that display our data in the best way possible. Some of these figures required us to run statistical analysis like one-way ANOVA tests, and T-Tests. Admittedly, I was not super familiar with how to run these tests, but through trial and error and some help, I was able to figure it out. Also, we had to determine an Index of Biotic Integrity for the fish that we collected in Indian Creek. This index gave us an idea of what the fish we caught tells us about the environment that they live in. While grinding out statistics and making graphs isn’t the most exciting thing to do (at least for me), it was nice to see the results of our research. Statistical analysis allows for us to interpret and understand what we collected, and the significance of it.
Later in the week Taylor and I cleaned the nets that we used for catching fish within the ponds. The task may seem simple enough, but it was a messy and prolonged process. Unfortunately, the nets had collected a host of organic matter from sitting in the ponds and was really stuck on the net. So, we had to hose off the nets to the best of our ability, and scrape out the mud, duckweed, and other aquatic plants caught within them. Once we were done with cleaning we left, and it was pretty surreal to have the truck emptied out. We were only doing field work for five weeks, but it seemed like we had just picked up the nets the day before. Field work really flew by, and it is crazy that the program is almost over.
On Thursday, Dr. Bernal talked to us about applying to graduate school, mainly writing the first letter to introduce yourself and your interest. We had all brought in letters that we drafted, and we talked about what we wrote. It was really eye opening to go over all the right and wrong ways of doing things. Furthermore, it was a good learning experience that will benefit me even if I choose not to go to graduate school.
With only a week left in the program, it is easy for me to look back and think about all the concepts and research methods I learned over these 7 weeks here at Purdue University in the REEU program. I came in not knowing a large amount about streams aside from fish (which I only knew because I enjoy fishing), but I feel like I leave with a host of information about Midwestern streams. Getting hands on experience really made me learn a lot of information very quickly and become experienced with equipment I had never utilized prior. One of the highlights was using the backpack electrofisher in Indian Creek. I love seeing fish, so it was awesome to shock them, measure them, and then release them back into the creek. I also have developed a bit of disdain for snapping turtles. They are amazing organisms, but there isn’t anything worse than pulling a net that is supposed to be filled with fish, and have it be filled with snapping turtles and fish. It just makes the rest of the process more complicated. I also will not miss sorting through the mud of PWA Ponds and Martell Pond for macroinvertebrates.
I am looking forward to next week and presenting what we accomplished over the 8-week program. I am prideful of what we were able to do, and I am excited to show it off. We were able to collect a lot of data and make quite a few figures based off of it. A tremendous amount of hard work was put into the project, and it is nice to see the results. Hopefully this last week goes as well as the previous 7, and we should have a fitting end to the program.