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Research Project Reflection

Submitted by kmichaud on Wed, 05/03/2017 - 17:57

Since we had put in so much time and energy into the research component of our topic, our research project came together smoothly. After my initial trepidation of performing the methods, I was happily surprised that our whole procedure was complete in four days. Collection and desiccation of the samples went quickly, and rehydration was accomplished in 24 hours. This was partly so easy because I had access to materials in my own research laboratory and was able to use our incubator for the samples. Once we had collected and analyzed our data, which was arguably the most strenuous part of the project, we were able to draw some conclusions from our figures. The most time consuming part was certainly working with PowerPoint to format the layout in an attractive way while fitting all of the relevant text. Looking back, I do wish that I had enough time to learn how to properly use Scribus, but it was simply a time crunch to learn a new software while organizing the components of the poster. Our group was very proactive in how efficiently we organized the information and displayed it on the poster, which resulted in how seamlessly the final product was produced. Again, our groups cohesiveness and willingness to meet outside of class made this project far more feasible than I originally predicted. In the future, I plan to learn how to use Scribus to create my posters and will continue to focus on formatting that is visually pleasing and cohesive. 

Research Proposal Reflection

Submitted by kmichaud on Wed, 05/03/2017 - 12:52

I was honestly frustrated at the beginning of this project, because I did not foresee that I would be able to put in enough time in my hectic schedule to perform a significant experiment on a topic that I knew next to nothing about. After jumping in with my group members, I found that desiccation tolerance would be a topic that would be relatively simple to manipulate with limited supplies and would be a biologically relevant question. As I considered how other groups had successfully desiccated moss specimen, our project became more realistic and it appeared that we could accomplish our methods in a week with minimal purchasing. I think a major contributing factor to how smoothly our proposal came together was how willing my groupmates were to meeting regularly to discuss how we would put the proposal together and who would accomplish which writing parts. After our presentation, we were all rather surprised that our project was not selected to be the class project since we had become rather attached to our design and topic. Following the proposals, we chose to utilize our idea and methodology in our manipulative experiment since we had successfully convinced ourselves that it was the most feasible and important project. Gradually, I realized that the project was more realistic than I previously thought and the proposal was actually quite successful. 

Methods Project Reflection

Submitted by kmichaud on Wed, 05/03/2017 - 01:20

       I was not particularly worried about the methods project because I was already far along in the manuscript of my thesis at the time and had just written my methods section. As I completed the project, I realized how little I had paid attention to the minute details when I took the original photos. It made it significantly more difficult to describe how exactly to obtain my photographs. This of course made it for difficult for the student who had to follow my methods, but I still got unnecessarily frustrated when she was unable to follow the directions that I had clearly laid out. Again, I learned that students interpret directions in different ways and our variation was likely just due to a lack of strong communication on my end. Once the project was complete, I realized how crucial it is to clearly explain exactly how to explain methodology so that it can be followed by others. 

Reflection: Journals and PP

Submitted by kmichaud on Tue, 05/02/2017 - 21:22

I was relatively concerned at the beginning of the semester because I did not anticipate I would have time for three hours a week of journal writing. I was a little more concerned when I learned that those journal entries had to be spaced out throughout the week and could not be written in one sitting. Historically, I have done most of my writing in one sitting because I have always had free time in larger chunks. In the beginning of the semester, it was not that easy to space out when I wrote for journals, but it to became more reasonable when I could take breaks in between writing to work on other things. I also noticed how frequently I was writing for other classes about biological topics. Perfect paragraphs, on the other hand, were a task that I was rather comfortable with because I do not mind editing. I gradually learned that students have different writing styles and that variation was not necessarily a terrible thing. 

Global Climate Change cont.

Submitted by kmichaud on Fri, 04/28/2017 - 10:47

The most convincing evidence to support the already clear dramatic increase in greenhouse gases and global temperature in the last two centuries involves the Suess Effect. Fossil fuels are formed by the ancient decomposition of organic matter, which is predominantly from vegetation. Elemental carbon, 12C has two persisting radioactive isomers, 13C and 14C, which decay at known constant rates. In modern day plant metabolism, 14C in 14CO2 persists in the environment because its half is approximately 5,700 years. If the atmospheric carbon is produced by modern day respiration, then we would expect the concentration of 14C to 13C to remain stable over time. This has not been the case, as the ratio of 13C to 14C has significantly increased during the time of industrialization. This increase is a result of the use of ancient carbon in fossil fuels releasing more 13C into the atmosphere, conclusively proving that anthropogenic causes are responsible for increased rates of global climate change. 

From Global Climate Change

Submitted by kmichaud on Fri, 04/28/2017 - 10:04

The causes of global climate change and rapid climate warming have been a topic of significant political debate. This debate is largely one sided in the scientific community, as it is widely accepted that the recent rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases is a result of anthropogenic causes. Greenhouse gases, i.e. CO2, CH4 and N2O, are capable of absorbing infrared radiation radiated into space from the Earth’s surface. These gases do not absorb visible light, allowing visible light to reach Earth’s surface and be absorbed by the surface. This energy is then reflected as infrared radiation, which is captured by the absorbing atmospheric gases, resulting in a warming effect. Overall warming is in an unfortunate, positive feedback loop with melting polar icecaps as frozen areas have higher albedo resulting in less absorption of light. As the climate warms, icecaps will continue to decrease in area, resulting in a lower albedo and increased absorption of energy by land masses and increasing global temperatures. 

Global Climate Change continued

Submitted by kmichaud on Fri, 04/28/2017 - 09:37

These rises in greenhouse gases are a combination of anthropogenic factors and naturally occurring processes, but have been significantly exacerbated by recent (within 200 years) anthropogenic emissions. Increased concentrations of CO2 and CH4 in the air are a product of agricultural and industrial production of CH4 (dairy farming) and from burning fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels in the form of coal or natural gas (CH4) results in an increase in CO2 and CH4 greenhouse gas concentration through the oxidation of organic carbon. As industrial practices increased over the past two centuries, burning of coal consistently increased global CO2 concentrations more drastically than background natural increases. 

Global Climate Change

Submitted by kmichaud on Fri, 04/28/2017 - 02:43

The causes of global climate change through significant overall warming has been a topic of significant debate politically. Among the scientific community, it is widely accepted that the recent rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases is directly a result of anthropogenic causes. As greenhouse gases, CO2, CH4 and N2O are capable of absorbing infrared radiation which is radiated into space from the Earth’s surface. These gases do not absorb visible light, allowing visible light to reach Earth’s surface and be absorbed as heat energy. This energy is then reflected as infrared radiation which is captured by the absorbing atmospheric gases, resulting in a warming effect. Overall warming is in an unfortunate, positive feedback loop with melting polar icecaps as frozen areas have higher albedo and can reflect more light. As the climate warms, icecaps will continue to decrease, resulting in more absorption of heat energy by land masses and increasing global temperatures. 

Turtle Shell Morphology

Submitted by kmichaud on Fri, 04/28/2017 - 00:12

Turtle shell morphology is an important determinant of how successful a species will be in its environment. Fully aquatic turtles, such as loggerhead sea turtles, have tear-drop shaped shells to increase their hydrodynamics during swimming. The first third of the shell should be the thickest point followed by significant tapering towards the posterior end of the animal to reduce the effects of drag. Though these species are well adapted to life in marine ecosystems, their heavy shells, flipper front limbs, and front-heavy carapace leave them significantly exposed on land. This is especially evident when females travel on land to deposit their eggs. Their movement is quite laborious, demonstrating how infrequently they make the journey.

Conversely, terrestrial turtles experience a selective pressure towards more domed carapaces. Domed shells provide more protection against predators by distributing bite forces around the shell, reducing the likelihood of breakage. This is especially evident in fully terrestrial tortoises. Semi-aquatic species such as mud turtles experience intermediate shell thicknesses to allow for protection again land predators while still facilitating efficient swimming. 

Landscape Ecology continued

Submitted by kmichaud on Tue, 04/25/2017 - 23:02

Though this patch is protected as conservation area, there is a significant amount of human traffic through the many walking trails. Organisms that inhabit this area must avoid frequent walkers, and their hiding places are rather limited considering the stretch of unbroken area. This particular patch is barely large enough to successfully harbor a population of large carnivores and a population of coyotes is well defined. It is frequented by populations of white tailed deer and other small mammals. The wetland areas and large streams running through the patch are also home to aquatic and semiaquatic organisms such as amphibians and fish. A population of brook trout are established in one stream that is an extension of the Asabet River. Since the patch is relatively irregularly shaped, animals that stray too close to the edge of the patch run the risk of collisions with cars and run-ins with humans. Wide expanses of farmland areas and busy roads block the safe passage to the next nearest undisturbed patch characterized by the Wachusett Reservoir to the North. Though inhabitants run the risk of death, they often stray beyond the patch in more suburban areas where forest cover is far more limited. White tailed deer and red foxes are two of the most frequently spotted travelers out of the conservation area. 

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