- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
My STEP Signature Project was a classroom learning experience in the realms of evolution and ecology, including unique opportunities to conduct field experiments on the islands of Lake Erie. It was on and around these islands that research was conducted on algal blooms and invasive species.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
During my time at Stone Laboratory, my eyes were opened to how very small changes can have an impact on such a large and complex ecosystem. Prior to my project, I was completely unaware of the concern about algal blooms on Lake Erie, let alone such a large one. Now, I realize how important it is to keep in mind even the most miniscule of factors, such as phosphorous in the rural areas surrounding the lake, and how it has a direct impact of the ecosystem as a whole. Where I once could have been careless, or not given any mind to a problem going on all around me, now I have been given the knowledge to tackle suck tasks and aid in the efforts to make a true difference in the environment. Adding onto this, I was also able to fulfill my dreams of working with wildlife in the field. This included going to various islands and collecting, as well as categorizing, fossils, birds, amphibians, and macroinvertebrates.
- What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
Stone Lab was encapsulated, not only by the research lab itself, but also by the environment, the teachers, and my fellow peers. There is no better place to conduct freshwater research than on a great lake. It is here, even in some of the watersheds and surrounding areas, that the most diversity per area subsided. Having the opportunity to be in such environments not only made the research more conclusive, but it also surged excitement into each new day. Being able to travel to different islands every other day and encounter new flora and fauna was not only fascinating, but also informative when it came to insights of species conservation. Such insights were what changed my perspective, ecologically, and gave me the information to be more environmentally aware.
Not only was the environment conducive to learning, but so, too, were the professors. Both professors I received (one for an ecology course and one for an evolution course) had a plethora of knowledge and were ready to dispense it onto their students. Additionally, both professors had a genuine passion about their work and helping students truly understand all topics covered. It truly makes a difference when one has a professor who has such a strong desire to teach what they, too, admire. In this way, the same admiration can be passed on by the students. Not only that, but such personable professors can also lead to becoming new friends.
Lastly, it was the friends who also played such an important role in the STEP signature project. There came many times when work bogged you down and there was not much recreation time. In these times, it was friends that brought you comfort, happiness, company, and even sometimes assistance. Whenever there were trips to other locations, you and your peers needed to work together to complete tasks or solve some sort of problem. This brought us all together and made us feel more at home on the island. Now, all having completed the experience, we can all recommend Stone Lab and its purpose to others who share the same passions to continue the legacy.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
The transformation, which Stone Lab has provided me, is valuable for a multitude of reasons. Before, it was easy to oversee such an immensely important topic, such as the harmful algal blooms of Lake Erie. It took the laboratory, my peers, and the environment to show me its paramountcy. I can now pass on such advice and insight to future generations in an effort to secure the safer future of not only Lake Erie, but also the rest of the Great Lakes. In experiences, such as these, lives can be changed, and mine has been. Lake Erie, and its conservation, will forever be of importance to me, and I hope that others who choose to enroll in the program will think so as well, in the future.