Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The highs and lows of a busy week

Wow, what a week and it is only Tuesday! I should probably be studying for my next two exams (tonight and tomorrow), but my feeble little brain can't take any more right now. I need a little study break. I just finished my Ornithology lab practical and am exhausted. I can honestly say that I studied more for this exam than any other exam in my college careers. Probably more than double any other exam in my college careers. Well, it appears to have paid off. I don't know my score, but I think I might have gotten an A. I should know tomorrow. Yesterday's Ecology exam is more difficult to predict, maybe an A, maybe a B. Clearly four exams in three days is not the glamorous and exciting part about my return to school.

Much more interesting are the research projects. I attend a research seminar where we hear presentations from various researchers. Yesterday I sat in on a masters thesis presentation regarding seed predation of Slickspot Peppergrass by Harvester Ants. Sure, you may think this isn't exciting, but I found it tremendously fascinating. These two species are endemic to Southwest Idaho. Their carefully evolved equilibrium is being disrupted by humans. The result is that there will be winners and there will be losers. I won't reveal more until the paper is published.

It is time for me to begin thinking about an undergraduate research project of my own. I have volunteered with a few graduate students to join them on research trips in the hopes of gaining insights into the process and resources available that can be leveraged. I may find some direct ideas of my own during my participation. One study is looking into forest owls, another into Sagebrush herbivory by Sage Grouse and Pygmy Rabbits. Just today I volunteered to help out on a study of migratory and local falcons and accipiters (American Kestrels, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Cooper's Hawks). For each of these projects I would be helping out on a few sessions. A new opportunity arose last week about working on a long term research project with Burrowing Owls of SW Idaho. If this project takes off I will be busy as a long term researcher on the project, collecting data twice a week. Regardless of which projects I become involved with, they are all very exciting. I can't wait to formulate my own proposals. I am hoping to develop my own proposal, execute the research , and present my results at the undergraduate research conference in Spring 2010.

This week may be the most stressful from an exam perspective, but it is also an week of opportunity.

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