Final Review

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  1. Through this course, I feel like I gained a lot of skills in statistics and writing about results and conclusions. Looking at where we started with our paper and where we ended up I can see how editing your research paper works. Before this class I had written research papers for biology lab, but those didn’t take as much planning. I really worked hard to find sources that explicitly support our data. I knew a little about statistics before, but going over the different types of t-test and software systems that can compute your data for you. Designing the poster was a lot of fun, and a good way to show results. For our audience, I think a poster is a better way to show your research by having people come up and talk to you and read the poster. Presentations can be boring!  
  2. The teaching experience gained is what I’m most proud of. My presentation skills were shaky at the start of the semester. I think practicing in class really helped me, but also I had a lot of support from my roommate, she listened through the presentations more than anyone else and also pumped me up for teaching. I think I feel a lot more comfortable speaking in front of an audience, and that I can actually convey information to others. The lecture from the school of education helped me plan out my powerpoint and really think about how the information is organized. I learned how to take cues from the powerpoint. I was most comfortable with the first carbon module because I felt the students were excited to be out at the RIce center. I think I did better teaching that presentation than the excel one, it was easier to manage the students at the Rice center and I felt more comfortable with that module. What I did well was plan my powerpoint and make sure it’s easy to follow. 
  3. My technique for learning the material was going through the powerpoint, drawing out the carbon cycle, and making my own powerpoint. I had learned the carbon cycle before in earth systems science, and had to know it for ecology, so I felt comfortable with it coming in. I just needed some details, but I felt like I had the big picture. I felt more comfortable with the information once I was tested on it. Practicing in class was crucial to develop my modules and I think was most effective. I was more nervous for the class presentations than the actual teaching. If I said something wrong in class, Eric and Siobhan would definitely catch me. If I said something wrong or messed up in front of high schoolers, I wouldn’t feel as embarrassed. Also, I think meeting with Eric before teaching was really helpful. I definitely needed that time to talk about what questions are important before teaching. 
  4. Critiquing the class is hard to do! I liked how small the class was. Everything was valuable. I actually feel proud of myself! This is a big step for me. My confidence at the start of the semester was like “Hey, maybe I can do this,” and now I feel like this experience was not as painful as I worried it would be, and it was actually a lot of fun! Something I especially liked was the blog. Duh. As you guys can see, I enjoy blogging. I think maybe we didn’t blog enough. But that’s just me. I like seeing all the news articles. If high school teachers don’t already use blogging (and not the “blogging” on Blackboard) they should! 
  5. How will you apply what you gained either in experience or knowledge after this class? Um, well I can apply my new found confidence to every aspect of my life (I’m just trying to be funny here). But really! Maybe I won’t second guess myself or think, “No, that makes me nervous.” I really stepped out of my comfort zone teaching and I liked it. I feel like now I’m not so scared to take on responsibilities, I can handle it. So, with respect to future jobs and grad school, I feel…capable. I can do this.
  6. What material had you learned during your time at VCU that was touched on in the capstone? Well, I had already covered the carbon cycle before this class, though my knowledge on it was shaky. And I had already learned C3, C4 and CAM photosynthesis in bio. I think that a lot of the things I learned in ecology about inland waters, wetlands, and the RCC really tied in nicely with this class.
  7. Reflection on blog The blog started out really great, and I had a lot of time for blogging, and as we got deeper and deeper into the semester I kind of spent less time on the blog. I wasn’t making many posts outside of what was required for class. But, the blog was helpful and I liked reading everyone’s post. Definitely keep the blog in! I think maybe, my only edit to the class, would be to add more posts where students can pick what they want to talk about (like our carbon in the news one). 
  8. Did the course change your perspective on carbon? Kind of! I knew about carbon emissions, smog, gross stuff coming out of your car exhaust, that sort of thing. But now this class makes me want to keep studying carbon. I want to look at carbon in soils! Any now when I’m walking down the street and see the leaves falling I don’t just think about how pretty it is, but I now think about what those leaves are doing to the environment. When you learn about something so detailed, like we did with carbon this semester, you look at things with a different perspective. I can’t look at my dinner without thinking sugars, carbon, digestions and biosynthesis, respiration…. but that’s fine! 

I chose the above Santa party photo because it’s almost Christmas and I thought it was funny. Enjoy! 

Our Data!

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  1. Summarize the results of the carbon consumption experiment. I put a stock photo of a confused old lady in front of a computer because that’s how I feel trying to manage all the data in my mind. It’s hard to put into words what’s going on in an excel spreadsheet. Overall, the results between the sunny mesocosm and the forested pre-leaf fall were what I was expecting: that the two sources of carbon were consumed at similar rates. I was surprised to see that not a lot was going on in the James River, I thought we would see a higher rate of consumption there than we did. Still, the forested mesocosm had the highest average DOC consumed out of the three and it makes me excited to get to compare the post leaf down to them.  
  2. Were your hypotheses supported or refuted? H1: There will be a greater loss of DOC in the forested post-leaf fall than the forested pre-leaf fall due to the fresh source of allochthonous carbon. Not sure yet! H2: There will be a moderate loss of DOC in the Sunny mesocosm due to a labile source of autochthonous carbon. I’m not sure if this one is supported or refuted, we might need to amend how it is written. But yes, the sunny shows more DOC consumed than the river and slightly less than the forested pre-leaf fall, I guess that is moderate or average. H3: The rate of consumption of DOC in the James River sample will be less than the forested mesocosms due to the natural system size and a mixture of both sources of carbon present in the sample. This one is supported by our results; the forested mesocosm pre-leaf fall had a much higher average DOC consumption. I’ve found some great studies on carbon in river systems that we can use in our paper to talk about the transport and settling of carbon. 
  3. Explain the broader implications of these results. These results show that allochthonous sources and autochthonous sources are equally labile because there was no significant difference in DOC consumption between the sunny mesocosm and forested pre-leaf fall. However, the differences between the sunny and the river and the forested and the river show that systems can differ in bacteria and other organisms and this can make them cycle carbon differently. Like stated in our paper, the difference between the river and the forested mesocosm pre-leaf fall may be because of the transport of allochthonous carbon in the river system (Schlesinger and Melack, 1981). The James River may also have anthropogenic sources of carbon in it from agriculture or industry around Richmond, which our mesocosms wouldn’t (Billet et. al 1993). Based on these results, inland waters should be studied more because their carbon consumption differs, and if we want to know more about the transport and flux of carbon in inland waters we need to look at each system closer. 
  4. How can you expand on this particular study in the future? In the future, I would expand our study by looking more at the James River. It would be interesting to compare bacteria in the mesocosms to the river. Rivers are such an important link in the carbon cycle. And the export of carbon for a river is correlated with its size, and watershed size (Schlesinger and Melack, 1981). I think looking closer at the James in a future study would be interesting because of the agriculture in Virginia that plays into its DOC amount, the James has a huge watershed and stretches across Virginia, and because the James is a part of the very large watershed that flows into the Chesapeake. The River Continuum Concept is also important when looking that the James, because where we sampled the river isn’t as narrow and the allochthonous sources aren’t dominating the space. Also, around Richmond the James does not have as many smaller streams and rivers feeding into it with their carbon. I think it would be really cool to design a study that looks at all the different stages of the James (or where it changes order) and what’s going on with the carbon in each area, in order to see how DOC levels and consumption might change with order or channel width. That would be my idea. To continue on seeing the difference in DOC consumption at the Rice Center, I would use all three mesocosms that are set up for more data. Image

Billet, M.F.; Cresser, M.S.; and D. Hope. 1993. A Review of the Export of Carbon in River Water: Fluxes and Processes. Environmental Pollution 84: 301-324. 

Schlesinger, William H. and John M. Melack. 1981. Transport of Organic Carbon in the World’s Rivers. Tellus Series A: Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography. 33(2): 172-187.

 

Brasil’s Trash

IMG_0778 IMG_0811 IMG_0820IMG_1137As I talked about in my last post, I wanted to show you guys how drastically different trash is in Brasil. My dad works for Rubbermaid, he knows all about trash cans and plastic molds. He was in Brasil at their Rubbermaid factory and snapped these pics around town. One photo shows how they sort their trash in the factory, and my dad says this sort of sorting area is common in Brasil. I haven’t seen anything like this around town, only on campus. One is a view down the street to a large dumpster, that is where the people on the street take their trash and then it it picked up their. The small bags on the street are where people have curbside pickup. But look how small the bags are! They don’t even use bins for curbside pickup. In one picture, you can see how affluent people have gated houses, and their trash goes in small decorative bins. It’s just dramatically different from here in the U.S. where we have such large trash cans and people have an attitude like they’re not responsible for their trash. I’m not sure if Brasil has different laws or if their attitude toward waste is different. Interesting though!

Learning About the CVWMA

Here’s the plastic bottle video! It’s cute! And effective.

I learned a lot from our guest lecturer, Nancy Drumheller. I did not know that the recycling here in Richmond is single stream! I have been separating all my paper and cardboard waste out and bagging it separately all this time! In my hometown you have to separate everything. My dad always made me break down the boxes and separate everything. It’s ingrained now to do that. I thought it was cool that the drivers get paid based on how much stuff they pick up, that should inspire the community to recycle more so that the drivers get paid more! You would think that is an easy way to help the economy. Also, I knew that landfills got capped off, but I just didn’t realize that that stopped everything from breaking down and being composted. But it makes sense if you’re cutting off the air! I wonder if it would be better to not cap a landfill and just let it sit. Or establish a landfill for food waste, and not mix it with other waste so that it’s easier to dispose of. Maybe we should take that extra step to separate our waste even further.

It is amazing how much we throw away in America though. I try not to waste anything, but it’s hard. Everyday you’re bombarded with ads on television, in magazines, or even on the radio telling you to buy stuff. You guys have probably heard the term “throwaway society” to describe our economy. My high school AP Environmental Studies teacher gave us bags and told us to throw away all our waste into them for a day to see how much we throw away. It was a cool experiment. I think Americans throw away more stuff than any other country. I’ll have to get my dad to email me the picture, but he was in Brasil and their weekly trash pickup was about the size of a Kroger plastic bag. I’ll post it here later!

I wanted to find some statistics on recycling in America, and I found this website called Keep America Beautiful. It says that in 2009, Americans recovered 34% of its waste from that year. That seems like a low number, but it’s actually high: that’s 82 million tons. KAB says this amount of recycling reduces our CO2 emissions to the equivalent of taking 33 million cars of the road. Recycling employs people, and even generates revenue from selling the materials. KAB says the industry is growing, too.

I can’t imagine why people don’t recycle. It’s 2013! I think it really depends how you were brought up though. My mom only recycles because my dad takes it out and everything. She wasn’t raised in a household that recycles. I cringe every time I go to my grandma’s and see her using a Styrofoam plate. But my dad is big on recycling, and I was raised to care about it, so now I do it for me and my roommate. I’d say that folks who are 18-25 and don’t recycle probably live in a big apartment building, don’t have their own place, or don’t want to buy a bin. If the CVWMA wanted to reach more people, and get more people to recycle, they could do what VCU does: put recycling bins around the city. Recycling in the dorms were easy because VCU has bins all over campus, you just have to walk a block and toss in your junk. I think that the city has trash cans on some blocks around the city, they could put recycling bins. I think there are even bins like that at Kroger, but this way people don’t have to drive their waste far outside the city. I’m not sure if places do this, but you could give the bins away for free.

Lastly, you have to make recycling cool. I know when my friends don’t have recycling, I give them a hard time about it. “Oh, you don’t recycle? I thought everyone recycled.” I don’t think there needs to be any incentives to recycle. Maybe recycling needs a good campaign, or slogan, like “Just do it!” Just recycle. It’s really not that hard.

Reflection on Teaching

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Before I taught at the Rice center, all I could do was worry about teaching there. I took Eric’s advice to talk more and practiced my slides again with my roommate and my friend Mady. Eventually I had to tell myself to stop stressing and just lay down in bed, and imagine myself teaching. If I could stop thinking about all the bad things that could go wrong, and just imagine the whole situation going great, maybe I would calm down. Since I gave this advice to Siobhan, I wanted to look it up and see if it’s effective and how it works. Guided Visualization: A Way to Relax, Reduce Stress, and More! on PsychCentral advises people to try to use positive visualization to reduce stress. Even though everyone is very busy, trying to spend some time quieting your mind and body. This can lower your blood pressure and stress hormones. It’s a lot like meditation, except you’re not totally clearing your mind. I’ve never been any good a meditation; I can’t shut off my brain. But this method allows me to let my brain keep running on, just changing my thoughts to a positive course, instead of spiraling downward. Athletes may use this technique a lot; for example by visualizing the course a runner may run a better race. So, I thought of myself teaching and everyone answering the questions and the lecture  moving right along. It didn’t stop me from being nervous, but I became more excited about teaching instead of dreading it. 

Like the image above, I was worried that I was going to think I was doing a great job teaching and the students just weren’t going to get it or be inspired. I think I got really excited that I was getting feedback from some of the students, I was just really excited they were talking and answering my questions, and I sped up the presentation thinking everyone was following me. I think if I taught it again I would have to slow down and make sure I was asking different students to clarify what I’m saying, or answer a question, to really make sure everyone is involved and knows what’s going on. That has to be a hard thing to do, when you’re teaching, to take students who are on all different levels of understanding and bring them to the same place together. But the students were really great! I feel lucky I had such a good class, and knowing their behavior makes me really excited to teach the Excel presentation. I feel now like I know I can teach it, it’s just a matter of getting it done. I feel a lot more confident now. 

One of my goals in taking this course was to see how I feel about teaching. I thought it was really rewarding and I enjoyed meeting the students and seeing how excited they were to be on a field trip. I’m not sure about being a teacher, but if there was a job where I just run the field trips all the time I would really like that! I really liked the outreach and outdoor education part of the experience.

China to close Schools, and Outdoor Activities During Heavy Smog

China to close Schools, and Outdoor Activities During Heavy Smog

Will China toughen up on their pollution laws if the smog is having this much effect?