Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Photos from Mt. Washington!

Like I mentioned in my last post, this past weekend I went on a trip to hike Mt. Washington with the Wilderness Program (WP). I wanted to write a nice long post about the trip, but haven't had time yet, so until then, here are some photos!


Set these up ourselves ;)

Our fearless Wilderness instructors, Sherman and Harper.

Getting ready.

Tuckerman ravine.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Wilderness Program.

First off, I can't believe how fast this semester is going by. Every time I go to write a post I'm amazed at how long it's been since my last! Time certainly does fly when you're having fun.

And speaking of fun, you know what's lots of fun? The Wilderness Program (WP) at SMC, of course! If you know what WP is; awesome, cause it's one of the best programs on campus. If you don't know, get ready to get told!

Here at SMC, we like to be outside. We like to hike things, and climb things, and paddle things and ski things. So one day (in the third century BC, I believe), it was declared that SMC should probably have a program to facilitate all of these outdoorsy endeavors. And so it began.

Sort of. I'm not actually sure when WP began, but I'm assuming my story isn't too far off. But in all seriousness, Wilderness is great. They offer hiking, climbing, paddling and skiing trips, as well as extended trips (like climbing in Acadia, Maine over the long weekend in October), and a bunch of outdoor certifications. All this stuff is subsidized for students, and they have an outfitter to go with it! So like their site says, all you need is a sense of adventure.

Another cool thing is that the trips are led by students; one of my good friends who's been really into the program since the beginning of last year started to apply right off the bat and was accepted as an instructor first semester. And this semester, I'm applying! I've already passed through the first round of the process, and the next step is a training weekend hike at the beginning of October. So hopefully I make it! I'd really love to do some back country ski instructing ;)

But before that, this weekend I'm going on an overnight trip to Mt. Washington (via WP, obviously), so my time until then is going to be saturated with studying and other homework things so I can enjoy my time off campus. Watch out for a post about it this Sunday! Til next time ;)

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Doing Biology in the Field.

Hey all! This post was intended for earlier in the week, but I've been having computer problems recently and am just now finding myself with enough time to type it up in the library ;p

So there are obviously lots of things at Saint Mike's that I think are interesting or worthwhile, and this often includes my classes. You'll hear me talk about the awesome professors and their accessibility, as well as some classes that are just cool on their own. One class that I'm taking this semester, Intro to Ecology and Evolution (BI151) fortunately already has great professors, but on top of that, it's also one of the coolest classes I've taken so far here at SMC.

I don't know for sure, but I don't think it's common that intro Biology courses allow students to do relevant field research for their lab, and design a project on their own. Well, that's what this course is, and, without overloading on the info, I'll attempt to describe what it's all about.

In Vermont, and mostly Chittenden County, there are endangered ecosystems called Sandplain Forests. They're endangered because most of what was left of them has been built on and developed over the years. But luckily, neighboring Saint Mike’s campus is the Vermont National Guard's headquarters, Camp Johnson, which contains a sizeable chunk of what's left of the Sandplain forest.

This is important because they've A) allowed us to do field research in there, and B) have done really well at preserving the Sandplain Forest ecosystem. And that’s important because part of maintaining this ecosystem includes prescribed burns, a.k.a. forest fires.

We called him Kernel.
When I first learned this, I was pretty shocked, because I'd never heard of forest fires as a means of preserving an ecosystem. But in this case, fire actually helps to maintain a balance of species diversity and catalyzes regeneration, so that the existing ecosystem isn't lost forever. Also certain species in the forest, such as the Pitch Pine, are rather fire-resistant, and this indicates that periodic fires have been an integral part of the ecosystem in the past.

So what do we do? Students get to go in the field and set up research areas where we collect invertebrate species (bugs) and record what trees we find, how many there are, and how big they are. That way, after the next burn takes place (this coming spring), there will be "before" data to compare to the “after” data when it’s collected. We also learn a lot about the biodiversity of the forest, and naming trees, shrubs and eventually bugs, and we get to see things like this caterpillar.

A lab like this may not be for everyone, but I certainly enjoy it! And it's making Ecology more and more of an appealing option for me after undergrad. But who knows?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Burning Magnesium, The Worst Sunburn of My Life, and Sushi.

It's been just about a week since classes started, and I'm happy to say my sophomore year is off to a good start. I was busy running around last week, getting papers signed, adding classes, switching this and that, buying books and other things, as well as trying to not get behind in the first five days. So, although I've been pretty busy, I'm happy and occupied.

I've decided that, given the events in my life in the last week, it would be cool to accentuate my first real week back with three things. The first: burning magnesium.

This semester, I'm in an Intro to Chem class with Prof. Moffett (whom I highly recommend), and on Friday we had an exciting lecture when she burned magnesium at the front of the class.

It almost looks like something out of Harry Potter, no?
Originally, I was going to include a video that I took in class (with permission ;p), but I forgot that video from my phone doesn't typically upload to blogger very well. Nonetheless, it was an exciting Friday and as you can see here, Magnesium burns bright.

The second aspect of my first week of school was the sea kayaking trip I did Saturday on Lake Champlain with the Wilderness Program. It was a great trip, and fellow blogger Boates went along as well. 

Boates with boats. Hehe.
I learned a lot about kayaking that I didn't even know could be learned; for example, there is, in fact, a way to steer a kayak. It's also very easy to tip kayaks over, as I learned four times. It's also very easy to get a terrible sunburn while kayaking in the hot summer sun when you fall into the lake four times and forget to reapply sunscreen.

Me, after sunburn.

But in spite of the sunburn it was still a good trip, and now I've learned that you can use white vinegar to treat a bad sunburn if you don't have aloe. But you will smell like a potato chip.

Finally, the third aspect of my life which accentuates my first week back was today, at the end of my Gender and International Development class, when we shared sushi with our Japanese cultural partners who, although they're here for three weeks mostly for English classes, helped us this past week with our first project of the semester. The project was about gender constructs in Japan and the rest of the world, and it entailed watching a Japanese movie (Train Man), conducting an interview, and finally a written component. I found it to be a really fun project, as well as a great learning experience, and I'm hoping our Japanese partners enjoyed it as much as I did!

Me, my classmate and our cultural partners, post-sushi.
So there's my first week back! And the second's already begun :p

Thanks for reading!