For my STEP signature project, I traveled to O’ahu, Hawaii to participate in a coral reef field study. For four weeks, I worked as a research assistant for the Grottoli lab group (OSU School of Earth Sciences) and helped to complete a 3-year long study of the affects that increasing oceanic temperature and pH have on coral reef populations. During this time, we took measurements of photosynthesis, respiration, and feeding rates of dozens of coral fragments that had been exposed to different pH and temperature conditions for extended periods of time.
This experience taught me how to apply prior knowledge to real-world problems. I began to make connections that I hadn’t before and to draw conclusions from past lectures that I had originally memorized and never given another thought. These skills and new-found love of learning have accompanied me into a new semester. I find myself making even more of these connections, between classes and even with my past research experience. I go to class with a determination that I’ve never experienced.
Another thing that this experience has taught me is that research is hard. I was able to witness first-hand how difficult it is to pursue a PhD. I was shocked by the number of unpaid, unacknowledged hours that are spent simply trying to answer a question. Although it is difficult, I can see how it can also be rewarding. We as a society wouldn’t have gotten very far without the almost insane determination of our researchers.
I feel lucky to know a few of those crazy researchers. Throughout the trip, it was humbling to realize that I was surrounded by remarkable people. These people had the work ethic, leadership skills, and dedication needed to complete such a massive project. I am so grateful that I was able to learn from them.
In the future, this project will aid me in my vet school application, my knowledge of research processes, and in future career/learning exploits. Also, its a pretty awesome conversation starter.