This week went by fast! Time is running out before the big presentation day, and the week was mostly spent attempting to collect the last bits of data I wanted and perfecting my poster.
Monday was the start of the poster-making process. I had my data, and I knew what it said, but it was time to arrange all these ideas into one complete poster. I was given a basic template from the program, and it was up to me to write, design, and create the look of the poster from scratch. It was a fun process! Creating and designing a beautiful poster from scratch puts me into a Zen frame of mind. Other than trying to create my poster, I wanted to conduct another experiment while I was there. I wanted to see if the activity rates of my two species, Balanus glandula and Balanus crenatus, differed significantly. So, I tried to conduct a plankton tow for the day to collect my cyprid. Unfortunately, the surface water in the marina where I take my tows had an oily sheenl – perhaps from a boat bilge. Not wanting to give up, Richard and I hopped on a small boat and drove out into the bay, to do a tow away from the spill. It was a fun time, and even though I still did not get any cyprids, I drove a boat for the first time! I may have not done my experiment, but I did end up with a wonderful poster draft and a new, thrilling experience.
Tuesday was more of the same, with a twist! Tuesday was my birthday! Everyone in the REU program was extremely kind, especially my lab partner Tiffany, who gave me little presents throughout the day to celebrate. It was my first birthday without my triplet sisters, and everyone’s well wishes made what could have been a hard birthday immensely special. As for work that day, I continued my plans of trying to collect cyprids and work on my poster. That day, I ran into a special guest. While conducting my normal plankton tows out on the dock, I ran into a gang of sea lions. Now, being from Florida, the only aquatic mammals I’m familiar with are manatees and dolphins. So, seeing these large and impressive pinnipeds was a shock. It was even more shocking when the biggest male started to bark and yell at me aggressively. I couldn’t get around him to board the moored boat where I do my plankton tow! I tried using other docks, but they were populated by busy fishermen. Luckily, after a while, the marina officials scared the sea lions away, but even then, I could not find my cyprids. I am stuck in an eternal game of “where’s Walter”. The rest of my day was spent getting informative feedback on my poster, taking notes on where to improve.
After a celebratory birthday, on Wednesday, it was time to focus and work on editing my poster, taking all the advice I was given during the professional development session and incorporating it into my poster. The process was long, and it took up most of the day. But, by the end of the day, I had a draft I was proud of. I also had some time to do a few plankton tows, but out of all the tows conducted thus far, I only found a single cyprid, a solitary Balanus crenatus. Sometimes the tides are just like that. Nature can be unpredictable, and if you don’t plan for it carefully, you’ll be left creature-less, like me. That is, perhaps, my most valuable lesson coming out of my REU experience.
Thursday was more of the same. I was given some helpful feedback from Richard, and I was finally starting to pull my research together. The poster was starting to look great! It looked clean, professional, and even beautiful. It is the cumulation of this summer’s hard work into one neat package. I’ve learned a lot, and all my observations and discoveries were on one page. The specific gravities between the two species studied were not significantly different. Swimming speeds do not correlate to the specific gravities, the sinking rates of the two species did not differ, and B. glandula appears to prefer the top third of a water column compared to B. crenatus.
Friday is where all my work on the poster wraps up. I make my final edits, try to conduct another tow, and make sure everything is presentable for the next Wednesday, where I will present my poster to the scientific community. I’m nervous, but ready to show all my hard work!