Can your mac n cheese hurt you?

By: Gabi, Paradis, Daniel, and Chloe

“Tadalatadala” the alarm rang, making sure to wake us all up. It was as if it was angry at us for sleeping and wanted to take revenge. Yes, it fully succeeded and got us uttering our “ummmmmhhh, I want to go back to bed. Why does morning have to come.” But science answered our question, in order to be successful we have to work and never be lazy.  We have to give our efforts if harbor seals and snails are willing to give their lives for our learning. We had an amazing breakfast and then prepared ourselves to work on our projects.

9:00 am: the spirit and the mood changes. The crazy and fun actions that paint the walls of the dorm change to focused and serious scientific faces as we were trying to analyze our data. It was astonishing to see how something we had collected could be used to test our own hypotheses. It was like building a house from scratch and we were all excited to see how our own constructions would turn out. Some people say that it’s better to see a finished house, but we say that it is fun and cool to see a house under construction—we learn better and it helps us figure out the direction we want to take going forward. We know that it might be hard and will require a lot of thinking and efforts, but we are ready for it and we aren’t scared at all. There is no science noble prize that isn’t worth $100.000, so our eyes are wide open and we want to get our noble prizes on Thursday whatever it  takes. Our own noble prizes are knowing that we made it.

After a morning of working on our projects, we went to Friday Harbor Labs where we met Dr. Katie Dobkowski, a recent PhD from the University of Washington.  She is an expert on the plants of the Pacific Northwest to say the least, and she shared some of her wisdom with us.  She started by teaching us some important skills and terms about plant biodiversity, including terms like richness vs. evenness.  After our botanist briefing, we started down the FHL fire trail which leads into a portion of the UW biological preserve.

With guidebooks in hand, we identified every plant species our eyes could see; we were all clearly intrigued by the huge plant variety that we had overlooked this whole time.  After developing a list of 30+ plant species, we did some biodiversity / density samples using quadrats along the fire road trail to try and find out a little more about the prevalence of the plants in the San Juan Island forest.  Upon returning to the dorms after our enlightening walk under the beautiful trees of the Pacific Northwest, we collectively input our data into a spreadsheet to record all the information we had observed.

To wrap up our day, we had Dr. Jack Bell, an analytical chemist at the FH Labs join us for dinner.  Throughout the evening, he shared tons of new facts all about chemistry, a subject that wasn’t too familiar to us, especially in the environmental and marine science fields. We all enjoyed hearing about some of his research projects and interests, from the “so-called” harmful chemicals in our mac n cheese to the presence of BPA in mussels along the Washington coast.

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