A Year in Review: 2016

I’d like to round off the year with a review of all I was able to do – sometimes, when the days are long and hard, the goals and accomplishments of the overall year get lost in the shuffle. But the goals of this year deserve to be celebrated – so here we go!

Science:12990940_1281985721816145_1685345968374993656_n

Although it feels like a lifetime ago already, two of my biggest scientific accomplishments this year were my senior year projects at Geneseo. My honors thesis in Biology, a forest community ecology project that looked at the impact of the emerald ash borer at Nations Road Reserve, was both crazy and rewarding (and taught me how much I hate software programs that don’t do all they advertise…). I got to do a huge presentation of my results to all the faculty at GREAT day, and write what was a pretty good paper about all that I’d found (which was not encouraging for the ash trees, but pretty okay for the forest overall).

Additionally, I completed a project that took three or four times longer than expected – my survey of native pollinators in the Geneseo Area. This project solidified my love of Hymenoptera and taught me a lot about social and solitary bees, factors that affect their abundance, ways to collect them efficiently, what biases factor into various collection mechanisms, and more. I left behind at Geneseo a truly impressive insect collection, well-labelled with IDs and collection metadata and (mostly) expertly pinned. The love of bees this project fostered in me still won’t shake, and I’m working on developing bee-related theses projects for my PhD.

As for grad school, this quarter had me pretty intensely involved in one ongoing project, two brand new projects, and a killer lab class that might actually turn into a pretty neat paper opportunity. This quarter I’ve learned a ton of histological techniques (slicing, staining, and quantifying brain sections) on army ants, where I’m helping finish up a project that looks at brain resource allocation across castes and species. I’ve also been working pretty intensely on ‘the mitonuclear project’ and ‘the social spider brains project’. Both of these are pre-proposal level projects, so I don’t want to give too much away about them yet, but they’ve solidified my molecular (PCR, gel electrophoresis, DNA extraction, etc) and histological skills, and also given me the opportunity to start learning about staining and using a confocal microscope. I feel like grad school has already given me a huge boost to my overall skill set. Lastly, my molecular ecology lab churned out some data that helped me gain experience with sequence analysis using the bacterial communities found in the guts of army ants.

Science is slow. 2016 didn’t give me any publications or big ‘newsworthy’ events (other than passing this quarter, damn that was rough) but I did gain a bunch of new skills and knowledge, and I’ve furthered my scientific career by pushing forward with several really cool projects on everything from ants, to microbes, to spiders.

My two top notebooks right now - spiders and poetry.
My two top notebooks right now – spiders and poetry.

Writing:

While time for writing has been seriously lacking since September, I think 2016 was overall a really good year for me as a writer. Fun fact: more of my written and creative work has entered the world in 2016 than any other year of my life. By a substantial margin, too; prior to 2016, I’d only had two poems and one 15-minute play published.

Let’s take a look at what happened in 2016:

  • My play, Experimental Ambiguity, was performed for a full house
  • My gamebook app, The Burning Trees of Ormen Mau, went ‘live’ in August on iOS and Android
  • I had six articles published for The Key Reporter, plus all the posts on this website (which is new!)
  • I had twenty one poems accepted for publication in eleven different magazines

So maybe 2016 didn’t end on the most writing-productive note, but I’d say it’s still a big win overall for my writing career.

For all of you, my first followers, mostly family and good friends – thanks for following, commenting, subscribing to my email list, and overall supporting me in my scientific and writing careers. Particular thanks goes out to my fiance, Alex, my uncle John, my parents, and my brother – without you, I would have fewer poems, science projects, blog posts, and, most importantly, hours of joy and purpose in my life. You are a big part of what helps me be successful and I can’t express to you how grateful I am to always have your support.

2016 was pretty great… and here’s to an even better 2017!

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