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The Buzz about Biodiversity

MIT Scope, December 2022

Jacob’s ladder, lacy phacelia, and wild bergamot were about to burst into blue, lavender, and pink and be swarmed by bees when a research group covered them with wedding favor bags. After the flowers opened, they removed the bags and waited. It did not take long for a bee to land.

For Kids to Play, for Picnickers to Picnic

MIT Scope, November 2022

Melissa Prusinski grew up in the Hudson Valley before ticks crowded the region. She spent most of her time playing in the woods. If those woods had as many ticks as they do today, she says, “I definitely would have had Lyme disease.”

An Oasis in Motion

MIT Scope, November 2022

Swirling bodies of water, 10 to 100 kilometers wide and full of life, travel around an otherwise barren region spanning most of the North Pacific Ocean. Fishermen too travel around this region. And in their search for tuna, billfish, and sharks, they often find themselves in these same bodies of water.

Lost Seasons and New Beginnings

The Grinnell Magazine, March 2022

In the spring of 2020, the Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center was silent. There were no clangs of weights hitting the fitness center floor, no music booming from the locker rooms, and no thud of footsteps on the track. The College had canceled spring seasons because of the pandemic. The NCAA and Midwest Conference took their own protective measures. Eventually, fall 2020 seasons were canceled as well. Some athletes were able to return for spring 2021 seasons, but those were by no means typical seasons. “It just kept getting pushed back and back,” remembers Danny Carter ’21 (football).

Finding the Message Essential to Neuron-Muscle Signal Transmission

Grinnell College, July 2021

Clark Lindgren, professor of neuroscience, studied physics as an undergraduate at Wheaton College. One day he picked up his girlfriend’s physiology textbook. “I was just captivated by it. It was the coolest thing,” he remembers. He realized that physiology is fundamentally applying physical theories to biological problems. With his understanding of physical theories, he says, “I could remember really distinctly reading something and then knowing what was going to be on the next page.”

Students Experience Iowa’s Subtle Beauty

Grinnell College, June 2021

Far from tall mountains, deep oceans, and dense forests, the environment Grinnell College is in isn’t often regarded as obviously beautiful. As such, many students come to the College for other reasons — the liberal arts academics, the mentored research, the focus on purpose, responsibility, and justice, the diverse perspectives. Rachel Snodgrass ’21, Francesca Dalla Betta ’22, and Crys Moosman ’21 are all such students. For Dalla Betta, the location was a “non-factor.” Moosman, who is from the Tetons of Idaho and identifies as “entirely a mountain person,” could not see themself liking a college far from mountains.

Grass-Fungal Symbiotic Relationships in the Namib Sand Sea

Grinnell College, June 2021

On many early mornings in Namibia’s dry Namib Sand Sea, the air is quiet, cool, and smells of water. Grinnell College Biology Professor Kathy Jacobson says that from atop a sand dune: “You can look down on the sea of fog and see the other tops of the dunes sticking out… It’s this really mystical experience.” Then, the sun rises, and “you get this wonderful visual sensation as the sunlight burns off the fog, warming and brightening the surroundings.”

Port Angeles CRTC: Giving New Flight to Aircraft Scrap

The Handbuilt City, March 2021

Before Nicole Wright started working at the Composites Recycling Technology Center, or CRTC, in Port Angeles, WA, two things pulled her to nearby Sequim: mountains and friendship. Having lived most of her life in Michigan, “being able to see any mountains, much less sometimes several mountain ranges at once, was just mind blowing.” As for friendship, one of her close friends, whom she met while studying abroad in Thailand, lives in Sequim. They’ve stayed close since returning to the United States, taking turns to visit each other. With a wistful smile, Nicole says, “as soon as I got home, I’d schedule another trip.” She scheduled one more trip for August of 2020. This trip, however, was one-way.

Shrink a Yard, Grow a Beach: Housing on Feeder Bluffs

The Handbuilt City, February 2021

One day, a resident of Port Angeles, Washington could swing in a hammock in his backyard and look out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, British Columbia, and the undulating hills that surround it. A few days later, he couldn’t. The tree on which he hung his hammock had vanished, along with 40 feet of his backyard.

The Fate of Aquifers, and What Controls It

Geobites, February 2021

The ground I’m standing on feels solid, but it’s really full of porous rocks. The holes in these rocks are all different sizes, and water can flow through and between those with larger holes. Together, bodies of rocks that are saturated with water form aquifers. As groundwater supplies more than a third of the water humans use, groundwater and the aquifers that contain it are vital. They are especially vital in mid-latitude arid and semi-arid regions without enough surface water. In their recent research, Wen-Ying Wu and their collaborators studied the future of aquifers in such regions and what factors control it.

Rivers and Roads (and the World’s Largest Dam Removal)

The Handbuilt City, January 2021

The Elwha River has been flowing on this land since long before it was called the Olympic Peninsula, or Washington, or the United States. And the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and other neighboring Coast Salish tribes have been interacting with the Elwha since long before then too. It’s a river that words can only begin to describe. Starting in the Olympic Mountains and ending in the Salish Sea, it meanders through rugged peaks, alpine meadows, and emerald forests. The Elwha appears to possess an energy of its own. Even when the sky is cloudy and dull, the Elwha’s waters shine clear and bright.

Not Here! But Where?: Contaminated Soil on an Old Mill Site

The Handbuilt City, December 2020

I came to Port Angeles, Washington (where part of my family recently moved) in March, when college went remote and life as we knew it began to end. It’s a good place to be during a pandemic—there aren’t many people and there is an abundance of trails to safely wander.

Butterfly Survey at Lava Cliffs

Rocky Mountain National Park, August 2019

On a late summer’s day, I found myself 15 miles up Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. There rests Lava Cliffs, a geologic formation that is the result of volcanic activity 28 million years ago. This is not an area where you would expect to find butterflies: the temperatures are low, the winds are high, and the plants are small and ground-hugging. And yet, butterflies are there. They thermoregulate by angling themselves with the sun, shivering to generate body heat, and taking advantage of the warm crevices between rocks. And, though the plants are small, they are plentiful. Thus, along with many areas around the park, Lava Cliffs is home to a surprising number of butterflies.

Fire Effects Monitoring

Rocky Mountain National Park, August 2019

On a warm mid-summer’s day, Rocky Mountain National Park’s Fire Effects Crew and I sat underneath a tall ponderosa, where a steady breeze wafted the pine’s warm, vanilla scent towards us. As our lunches disappeared, our eyes began to drift towards the 20x50 meter monitoring plot just a few strides away. Chris, the Lead Monitor, cleared his throat. In a hushed voice, he professed that, if I were to leave with one take away, it should be that, no matter how long you look at a plot, it won’t do itself.

From Silence to Noise

The School for Field Studies Blog, April 2019

Our plane shudders to a halt on the runway of Paro Airport. I step out, and I am immediately enveloped by an expansive silence that engulfs the valley and everything beyond it. I continue on — off the runway, through the airport, onto the bus, into the SFS Center — and all the while, the silence continues on around me.

Published Writing: Work
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