Sunday, May 25, 2014

Week 8: Finishing Community Ecology and the start of Research Projects

Overview
            Week 8 marks the end of Community Ecology and our transition into our final research projects.  This week, we finished processing all of last week’s data and began collating them into our final data reports and presentations.  Monday and Tuesday were spent analyzing the entered data and creating appropriate figures for our Wednesday presentations.  Tuesday’s lecture also marked the final lecture of the course, and Thursday’s final capped our last exam of BI 450.  After a short break Thursday evening, we returned to the classroom early Friday morning for a crash-course in experimental designs and the beginning of our independent research projects.

Monday
            Monday began with free time for groups to start analyzing their data with statistics.  Liz was incredibly helpful and answered question after question on statistical tests, figure preparation, formatting issues, and much more. 
            Later, Bruce gave a lecture on meta-ecosystem ecology and introduced us to the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis: an important model for assessing community recovery after a major disturbance event.  He talked about a study where species diversity was high in barnacle species and Mytilus trossulus after an initial disturbance (after the population had some time to recover) but declined as M. californianus outcompeted the other species for space.  This lead to understanding that intermittent disturbance events in an environment help keep species richness high by reducing competition for space. 
            After lecture, data analysis and presentation preparation continued.

Land snail living the slowlife. We saw lots them this week.

Tuesday
Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint are so very exciting
            Tuesday was very similar to Monday in structure:  data analysis/presentation preparation in the morning, followed by lecture and more data work in the afternoon.  That afternoon, Bruce’s final lecture on species diversity marked the last lecture of BI 450!  Mixed feelings were felt all around.  Urgency was palpable in the afternoon and evening as groups scrambled to finish their presentations.



Wednesday
            Waking up bright and early Wednesday morning (as usual in this course), everyone trudged into the Library Seminar Room for presentations.  As expected, all groups gave fantastic and intriguing presentations!  The early mornings and late nights of the previous week-and-a-half seem to have paid off. 
Presentation from the Pisaster Wasting Survey Group.
Everyone had lots of question after!

            After presentations, we had a quick break before meeting back in the classroom for our final exam review.  Many of us were nervous for the big exam, but Bruce kept the mood both light-hearted and educational.  As he put it: “I’m not scared for the exam.”  Engaging questions were asked, and we all walked away with a better understanding of what material we would be tested on.
Bruce and Liz, asking the important questions

            

That afternoon was filled with the furious tapping of fingers on keyboards as everyone rushed to finish their data reports.  Splitting time between writing a scientific report and studying for an exam was a little stressful, but we all came out the other side breathing.


Thursday:


Thursday we had our final test of the term in Marine Community Ecology with Bruce Menge. Overall I feel like I learned a lot from this class and having someone as experienced as Bruce as a teacher really is a gift. While there was a lot of material that we covered the final exam was open note, which was nice. I think that’s nice as it means we can focus more on understanding the concepts rather than just memorizing terms and scientific studies.

Skeleton shrimp, Caprella sp. top of the picture in the middle. Living on a hydroid.



Friday:


Reuben went over how to properly design a scientific experiment and the statistics involved with analyzing the results. Afterwards each group met with Sally, Sarah, Su, Liz, and Reuben to pitch their project idea. Our project (Rachel, Kenzie, and Jake) is studying the effects of temperature and feeding on the regeneration and survival of Anthopleura elegantissima. They liked our ideas but some of the logistics had to be changed. This is an important aspect of learning about the scientific process. It often takes lots of thinking and rethinking about the project design to come to a final workable design. There’s always a trade-off between the best design and what’s actually feasible with the resources and time available. Friday evening was also the due date for our project proposals, which included an introduction on the topic, materials and methods, expected results and significance.  Proposals are an important part of the process of conducting a scientific experience. If you need funding you need a good proposal.

Foggy Friday morning. 
                                             

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