Figuring out the future… with help

My primary motivations for getting involved with/applying for BSURF were primarily based around me having a general knowledge of my interests but not idea how to apply them to come up with a game plan or possible career for myself. For this reason, each and every talk I heard this summer made a difference for me and was important not only for the science portions, but especially for the portions in which each faculty member gave a summary of how they came to be where they are. There were more than a couple “aha moments” for me when a presenter would say something about their life that really clicked with my goals and got my ideas running on how I could accomplish my goals in similar ways. But beyond the broad future help, the science itself was also super great in that it was always interesting; even when it did not relate specifically to anything I knew well presenters tended to touch upon themes that run throughout all of biology so that I could connect how their science might relate to the science I am used to studying (ecology, organism/habitat interactions, etc.).

In some cases this link was easier to make than in others, as I found to be the case with Dean Nowicki’s presentation. I imagine that my interests in Dr. Nowicki’s work was grounded in several things. Funny enough, I had previously read into Dr. Nowicki’s work a bit earlier in the year, unknowing that he would be a BSURF presenter. I had found his lab while scanning through something on some biology page and I was drawn in by the picture of his bird on his lab page because plants and animals are all super cute. So, as I read on his lab page earlier in the year and as he presented to us, he studies songs in song sparrows and he tested sparrows’ ability to differentiate between songs using a habitation/recovery type test. I hadn’t heard of this kind of test before and thought it was a great and interesting idea because it is quite a conceptually simple idea but can reveal so much about the sparrow communication and behavior. I enjoyed how Dr. Nowicki made the comparison between categorical differentiation in bird songs and in human understanding of the “pa” and “ba” sounds, simply because it made the technical material easy to understand. There were several other aspects of this presentation that caused me to favor it; in short: the fascinating topic of neurological processing of sound, the differences in calls being affected by habitat location (so basically evolutionary differences) that was briefly touched upon, and the relatability of the research to human speech development.

As an aspiring ecologist, animal behavioral work is something I typically enjoy, and I was lucky enough to have Dr. Nowicki and several others touch on one of my favorite broad topics this summer. But even beyond that, I am grateful to every one of the distinguished lecturers that took time out to help guide my and my colleagues’ wandering feet in the right direction toward our future goals.

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