Oh man. What a stressful week. But crunch time always is.
We’re making posters as a kind of final synthesis of the work we’ve done, and I’m really (really) looking forward to getting mine done because I think it will help give me some perspective on everything I’ve accomplished this summer. I have tried so many things that haven’t quite panned out, or that didn’t tell me what I wanted to know. When you talk to real scientists, they always tell you “that’s science.” I was joking the other day at our professional development session about getting “it’s not failure, it’s science” tattooed on my face. We all laughed a little too hard at that.
I must say, it’s a little hard to learn so much all the time. It’s difficult to keep moving forward when you constantly realize how you might have done something better. It is good to see the limitations of your own work, and to consistently improve your methods… but it’s also important to make definitive conclusions about what you’ve done, to see your own growth, and to realize how much you’re learning. It can be a challenge to stay optimistic when you don’t get the concrete results you’re looking for. But zeros are a thing too! Sometimes when what you’re looking for isn’t there, that IS telling you something! It can be hard to tell sometimes whether you’re getting a “no” or if your protocol doesn’t work for what you’re trying to do. I am learning how to make that call and move on.
It’s funny how much you can look at something without really seeing it. I’ve been looking at these crystals for weeks, but if I didn’t remind myself to look at their approximate location, or their shape, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell them to you. I realize patterns so much more quickly when I keep good notes about what I’m seeing, and don’t assume anything is a given. Everything about a familiar thing seems obvious, until you don’t have one to look at anymore. This week I am almost out of larvae and juveniles, so trying to be specific about what I see, even in photos, is a challenge. It’s like that thing they do in middle school, when they show you twenty pictures of a penny, all slightly different, and ask you to pick out the right one. And you can’t, and it makes you wonder where you’ve been.
It’s important to maintain a balance between compartmentalizing things and seeing the big picture. An excel spreadsheet is a perfect example of this. There are lots of rows and columns, and you could potentially do a million different things with the data you’re compiling, but when you work through it, you really just have to think about one thing at a time. What does this cell tell me to do? Find the long dimension of the crystal? Okay. And it’s very manageable. This boils the world down to a tiny little question that is manageable and that you can answer. If it’s not the most straightforward answer to give, or measurement to take, you just take it one tiny thing at a time, and keep it moving. I find if I can focus on one thing at a time while recognizing that piece’s place in the bigger scheme of things, I can be a lot more productive and keep my spirits up.
Hi readers! My name is Christina Ellison and I am a Marine Biology major in my senior year at the University of Oregon. I was born in southern California, raised in Utah, and have lived, worked, and studied in Salt Lake City, Ojai, New York City and Eugene. I am also a painter, and sometimes a writer and a dancer. Whatever else I may be, I try to be a liver first. I strive to foster a sense of connectedness to the world around me, and to open myself to the wonder that is life, and death, and change, and beauty in all its many forms. I am fascinated by marine life and processes, and by living things in general. I can become interested in most things if given enough background, and as I develop my own understanding and find a way to put myself to work. My work as a student has inspired a deep appreciation for both the diversity and unity of living things, and for the scientific process. I am not only a student to the facts, but to the process by which we come to regard them as such. I think the scientific process is the pure spirit of curiosity with the moral responsibility and the discipline not to get attached to any theory or outcome, or in any case, not to let our hopes, or our biases, interfere with the conclusions we draw from honest work. Ultimately, it is the process that facilitates our understanding of, and thus our relationship to, the world around us. My interests in marine biology remain very broad. I am interested in ecology and organismal biology. I like learning about how bodies work, how they interface with their environments, and how interactions between individuals scale up to inform community structure. I have also recently become interested in the life history of marine organisms.