Science Week in Review No. 2

I am excited to bring you my second Science Week in Review. I really enjoyed writing and researching the first one and so I was just as excited about this one. As much as I can I am trying to share stories and articles that don’t require lots of background information. I give some short explanations for any concept that I think might not be common knowledge. Please feel free to ask if you need any clarification!

The importance of understanding microplastics. This article reminded me of how important awareness of our use of plastic is. I feel like I sometimes become complacent and need a reminder of how every action counts and just how serious the situation is. There is also this article on plastics and fish. The issue of microplastics is an important one that I will definitely address in the future but in short microplastics are fragments of plastic less than 5mm that are polluting the environment. Plastics degrade into these tiny little pieces that are much harder account for and clean up.

Understanding Species Recovery (IUCN red list). If you are familiar with any part of conservation you have likely heard of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is basically the platform used to keep track of species status. It is basically a database of information on many species around the world. Each species is reevaluated every so often and that allows for numbers to be monitored especially for species that are listed in a threatened category. This article gives some insight into how species recovery works. Recently the Green List has been introduced as an add on to the Red List that will allow for monitoring of conservation efforts. We actually had a discussion about this at the conference I went to last week!

Algae species as a key to plant evolution. Plants are a crucial part of our ecosystem, our breathing depends on them! Studying plant evolution is difficult since we don’t have fossils like we do with animals. The important science here? Recently scientist published the genomes of two algae species that are evidence for plant evolution to land species. They appear to be the closest living relatives of land plants. This is definitely an important find for plant scientists and for evolutionary biologists.

A star flying out of a black hole. I do have a fascination with space so I always look to include an interesting article about it. Astromoners observed a “runaway star” that has come out of the black hole at the center of our galaxy. The speed at which it is going is absolutely crazy (4 million miles an hour)! I think this article was so interesting and understandable (for someone who has not much knowledge of astronomy).

Methane emissions in California. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect. This is the process of the warming of the atmosphere by radiation of greenhouse gases. The warming today is so extreme because we have drastically sped up natural processes. We are emitting greenhouse gases at an unprecedented rate. This article speaks to California’s monitoring of methane emissions. The relevance here is that the research done looked at spatial emissions of methane allowing the state to focus efforts on facilities with the largest emissions.

One last interesting article only because I found this to be a fun and interesting little piece of information. A fossil relative of the orangutan. Scientists used proteins from the jaw/tooth of a Gigantopithecus blacki fossil to link it to modern orangutans.

Please let me know if you have found any interesting science articles! Also I always appreciate feedback on posts, especially this series. I strive to bring science to everyone and in terms that are understandable for everyone. I also try to make sure I state the relevancy of each article I share. Thanks for reading!

Erin

5 Things I Learned from My First Year of Grad School

It is Sunday night and I am at my friends house in Vermont. I have been trying for days to brainstorm ideas for today’s post and I have not had any that I felt passionate about. What I realized is that I spend so much time thinking about grad school and stressing about work. I have been actively avoiding the subject since it has been hard for me lately but sometime the most important thing to do when something is hard is face it and talk about it. Instead of updating you on where I am right now with everything I though I would list the five most important things I have learned from my first year (and a few months) of grad school.

  1. Stuff happens. The unexpected happens a lot and the worst case scenario happens way more then I thought it would. The thing I have learned from this is that the best way to handle it is to recognize it, deal with it and move on. Rolling with the punches is a must and finding a solution to an unexpected problem has been a part of my job. It does not help at all to stress about it and overthink it a ton (which I have spent lots of time doing).
  2. Don’t say yes to everything. This is by far the most surprising point for me on this list. I was the ‘say yes to everything’ person in college and that was a great strategy for me since I was able to do so many amazing things. Now if I said yes to everything I would really be struggling. In fact, right now, I am limiting what I say yes to and still feel completely overwhelmed. A few weeks ago I had to drop something since I realized that I was way over my head and I did not feel like I was doing anything well since I had too much to do.
  3. Have a life outside of school. Having both a family and a hobby are so important for staying balanced and sane. I am so used to being around people whose jobs are their hobbies and vice versa (that seems odd but I had quite a few professors in undergrad who truly loved their jobs and spent a ton of time going above and beyond a day job). While I am happy for those people and look up to them, I am the kind of person who needs other things in my life. I want to do other things. I also think that regardless of whether or not you need a hobby you should have a work life balance that consists of people you care about. Ever since Aiden came out to Utah I have been way better at this but am by no means an expert. I am still struggling a ton with this one.
  4. Make friends outside of work. While I love my lab and everyone in it I have been learning how important it is to have other people in my life. I do want to talk to my co-workers and hang out outside of work but it can be so easy to slip into talking about work. For me the lines definitely blurred and I am feeling the need to at least reach out some more to other friends.
  5. Try to focus on what you want to get out of it. In other words, what do you care about in regard to this job? This is definitely not always possible since there are many things you need to do for others in order to get where you want to be. I included this one though because I feel like I struggle with it the most. I always think about the expectations others have of me and what they want me to do versus what I want to be doing. I care so much about people and want to please them and for them to be proud of me. I still think it is important to care about others but in grad school I am learning that the biggest motivator is your own desire to do certain things (i.e. care about your research). Not only that but it is about creating your own research. So build off of other people but the most important thing is do what you want to be doing.

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Thanks for reading! If you are in grad school or have had similar experiences with work I would love to hear about it.

Erin

Life Update

Wow I have no idea where to even start with this post! Life has not stopped being crazy which has been incredible in many ways but also overwhelming. There have been a ton of amazing opportunities and adventures but I have had almost no time to process anything! Here is my best crack at an update on my life lately:

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Grad School

In August I started my first year of graduate school at Utah State University and I have been so so busy. I enjoy being busy and I think having more to do helps me be more productive but right now it is so tough to get everything done. I am teaching a class, doing research and taking my own classes, on top of moving to a brand new place and trying to figure out my life here. I barely have had time to think which is kind of crazy! The biggest thing I have come to realize is how much time professors spend on single classes. At least three days out of my week have been fully dedicated to preparing for and teaching a class that meets once a week (although we do have three sections). I spend one day focusing on my own research which comprises mostly of reading lots of scientific papers right now. The rest of my days in the week are spent in classes, doing homework and helping around our lab. I have had fairly little time for myself and do not feel like I have been utilizing that time all that well. Also if you don’t know I am starting my PhD in biology!

Summer

I am not even sure where to start with the past few months. So much has happened. My sister and I got back from Europe at the end of July, just in time for the wedding of a family friend (which was very beautiful). My mom and I left the next day to move a bunch of my stuff out to Utah. I had a few meetings with my lab but the trip was mostly filling out paperwork, moving in and getting some things set up. We only stayed three days before driving back to Boulder so I could pick up my friend who came to visit. I absolutely loved having her visit! We hiked every single day, visited the national park and did a short backpacking trip (which I did do a post about). She visited for about a week and then I left for New England because my boyfriend’s family was on vacation. I will do a post on this trip in the coming weeks because it was so beautiful and such a great place to visit (we were mostly in New Hampshire)! I flew home a week later and had one day to get any last minute things, pack the car head out to Utah.

As a side note, I was driving by myself for eight hours so I listened to the book Educated by Tara Westover and I highly recommend it! I spent my first week in Utah doing lots of safety related trainings and getting things in order. Classes started the second week and that Friday I left for Bahamas for 10 days of field work in the Exumas. My trip to the Bahamas was pretty crazy as well! I got sick (for two whole days!), visited pigs, went snorkeling and collected tons of data. I also met some great people and had lots of productive conversations about research!

Fall Outdoor Adventures

I having been really trying to get outside for a little bit every day and do something a little bigger once a week. This has definitely been way harder than I expected! Last weekend though I went camping up in the canyon with some friends which was so fun and very needed. The leaves were bright yellow and the air was cool and crisp. I have had fall camping on my seasonal goals for the past few years and it finally happened! A friend and I also went to the harvest festival to get pumpkins which as so fun and really put me in the mood for fall.

Apple picking has also given me some hard core fall feels. The house I am renting has two beautiful apple trees so I have been trying to bake when I can and freeze as many more as I can. I made an apple pie for our camping trip and am now psyched to get creative with some other apple recipes (we seriously have so many apples)!

Meditating

One of the best things for me lately has been meditating. I took a hiatus for a while and am so so glad to be back at it. I went ahead and bought the student yearly plan on Headspace and it is so worth it. It has been about a week since I started and I am feeling so much better already! Taking a few minutes every morning really helps clear my head and puts me in a better place to start the day.

Reading

One last update! While I definitely have not had as much time for reading, I did finish Circe while in the Bahamas and loved it. If you at all like greek mythology you will love it. The whole thing is about Circe (commonly known for her role in The Odyssey) and her struggles as the not so beloved daughter of Helios. Right now I am listening to In a Dark Dark Wood on Overdrive and I am hooked. If you haven’t heard of Overdrive it is a great way to get audiobooks on loan from your local library!

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Have a great weekend!

Erin