Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Intro Bio

My introductory biology course is fairly intense. Rather than cramming a lot of information into a single semester, the class is broken into two semesters; during the first semester we covered the tiny stuff: cells, macromolecules, cell division, etc. This semester, we're going macro; we're studying ecology and evolution, as well as animal development and physiology. The class meets three times a week, for an hour each meeting and there is a 3-hour lab component that meets weekly. We have done several studies/experiments and written lab reports for each. I don't particularly enjoy writing the lab reports, but I understand the relevance of writing to a career involving research, so I put my best effort in.

So far, our labs have been pretty straightforward. The first week, we mated some Drosophila melanogaster flies and predicted the phenotypes of their offspring. In the second week, we studied the effects of population density on Paramecium multimicronucleatum. In the third week, we tested the effects of various common pollutants on Daphnia magna. In the fourth week, we looked at interpecific competition between Paramecium multimicronucleatum and Paramecium tetraurelia. I semi-enjoyed all of those labs, though I was a bit unmotivated when it came to sharing the studies via written reports. Why did you conduct this study? Because I was told to. Why did you use the procedure that you did? Because I was told to.

The last couple of weeks, I've really started to enjoy the lab section. Last week, we gave 10-minute oral presentations in which we had to present the findings of any peer-reviewed, published study. I presented the Maiacetus inuus paper to my class and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was so much fun to take something that I find fascinating and teach people about it. I was actually disappointed when, at the end of the presentation, nobody had any questions!

We've also started doing our winter bird studies. It's the first lab assignment I've had where I get to design my own study; of course, there are some limitations. I've been recording the various species of birds that visit two feeder types: feed and suet feeders. So, I've spent at least six hours in the last two weeks in the field, studying the feeding habits of birds, and I have pretty much fallen in love with birdwatching. I bought myself a pair of binoculars (10X50) and an I.D. book for Eastern birds and every sunny day, I try to squeeze in a bit of time in the woods. There's something about being outside, with no noise other than bird songs (which I'm starting to recognize!), in the sun, just watching. And I love the challenge of trying to add to the list of species that I've seen. There's one species, in particular, that I have never seen, but have heard, that I'm dying to identify. I thought it was a cardinal...but it isn't.

I'm hoping there's someone at the university who studies birds, because I'd love to hop on board with some research.

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