Sunny Days Ahead
While I didn't take classes this summer quarter, here is an exploration of my very first Experiential Learning activity and the sunny adventures alongside it!
Marine Science to the MAX
My "Research" Experiential Learning Activity with the coolest scientists and artists ever.
In the final weeks of spring quarter, people from every corner of the UW campus and beyond were in a rush to beat the summer internship and job application flurry. Having known about the Astronomy Department's intentions of having me stick around for the summer and into the school year, I was not that eager to jump into, yet again, another job.
However, I had my eyes set on a few opportunities out there that involve research or engagement in my marine science field.
While the first internship I applied to during the application frenzy never came to fruition, I was not all too disappointed. My Marine Biology advisor Joe Kobayashi sent out an email to the MarBio email list a few days after my rejection that I simply could not get out of my mind.
The email was asking for a student research assistant with marine science knowledge and a willingness to photograph a field location for the duration of the summer. The team was particularly interested in marine mammal stranding events, and what they reveal to the communities around them. With Seattle having a history and reputation of strandings and close contacts with marine mammals of all kinds, this was the great location for their study.
What drew me into applying was the emphasis on the close-knit Arts-Sciences collaborative nature of the project, and I knew it was perfectly between my interests in creative work and marine biology research. With my resume and cover letters freshly polished from my first internship application attempt, I worked on my application materials a little more before sending them into the designated email address. A few days later, I found myself interviewing with one of the researchers, Astrida Neimanis, and was eventually selected alongside a UW Master's student Jess Carrington!
I met with Astrida and Patty (another lead researcher for the project) during my last week of class at UW in June, and officially began my work as a photo-docmentation assistant for the project soon after!
From the start, I knew that I wanted to be a valuable resource for the lead research team in terms of giving both the scientific and cultural context of the field site over the duration of the summer. One of the goals that I maintained to track during my engagement with the research project was learning how to integrate the creative and science-communicator sides of me, or as I mentioned in my initial Experiential Learning application, learn to use “human nature to my advantage when communicating pertinent information.”
I can certainly say that I achieved that goal this summer! I got heaps practice developing reports and these "mini-presentations" on conditions, special events, and observations during this research project. All of the material I prepared would help the lead researchers understand what was going on in and around the site during our monthly zoom meetings, especially since they were all based out of town (and some overseas!). Some photos of my field visits are below this EL portfolio entry!
During my engagement with this research project, I discovered that fine line of intersection between my scientific interests and creative interests, and how that was different across other people's projects and goals. I recall listening in on Astrida and Patty's conversation about striking the perfect balance of creative obscurity and scientific clarity/bluntness with their eventual presentation event in September with the Henry Art Gallery. As a student fresh out of a STEM-heavy spring quarter, I was incredibly intrigued to engage in that conversation with them to break away from my "blunt STEM-y brain" and see where their personal creative and scientific compasses aligned for the "voice" of the project.
Striking that balance and finding the right "voice" was something I never properly considered before this conversation, and with that realization, I found myself making more conscious decisions about my photography style during my photo-documentation field visits. I was so accustomed to taking bland, boring, straightforward shots of my subjects for observational purposes in the past, and I often reserved all of the “pretty-looking” photos and techniques for my strictly-recreational shoots. Now, I had the courage to combine the best of both worlds and make these aesthetically and artfully pleasing compositions while still getting enough of my subject and its contextual surroundings to still provide our lead team with the information they needed to craft their presentation event.
Taking this balance between my two fields into account well into my professional future will most certainly provide me with valuable opportunities to capture audiences beyond the scales I've seen in the past. My current and future coursework relies heavily on excellent communication skills and alternative forms of information delivery, and I’m glad to say that the delivery style of my work with Learning Endings is under my belt and ready to go! With the skills and experiences I gained during this research opportunity, I'm walking away with a much greater appreciation for those who strive to make these interdisciplinary projects a reality, and especially those who advocate for their importance in the academic setting.
Every research project does not have to be the perfect cookie-cutter, end-all-be-all, scientific paper. It can be something artistic and exciting too! There is so much value within the ideation of a research project, especially when you experiment with crafting new experiences and styles, ultimately with a goal of diversifying the way folks interpret important information. Some information is best communicated when people are able to piece it together with their own context and minimal lecturing guidance. We, the researchers and presenters, are simply the facilitators of that very special journey, and I’m so happy I got to practice my new skills while educating my community about the importance of marine life, marine mammal interactions, and strandings this summer.
Getting Outside and *Manifesting* that "Mountain Goat Mentality"
Peer Educators take on the big scary world and Samantha "gets over" her fear of heights
Okay, remember how I said I met some of the coolest people ever from my Honors PE seminar this spring? Well I'm glad to say that this silly little group took our love for rock hopping (thanks to our beach adventure from the retreat) out into the wild!
Over the summer, I blew off some pent-up steam and cabin fever from my hefty amounts of design work by getting outside with some pals from class! The main group was Sophie, Jon, Dylan, and I, but occasionally we'd find others to adventure with when people had some more availability on the weekends.
Some of my favorite adventures include our very first trip to Mason Lake in the Cascades. On a day like that where it was 90+ degrees, a hike up 2300 feet in a well covered trail to a FREEZING cold alpine lake was simply *perfection*.
Another wild adventure was just with Jon and Dylan, and we made our way to a hike in the Olympic Peninsula for the first time! Jon offered up his mom's house in Kingston (OMG throwback to the PE retreat!) while she was away during a business trip, so we were able to ferry over, stock up at a local Safeway, eat an obnoxious about of Domino's pizza and Parmesan bread bites, and goof off and chat well into the night. After getting up at a bright and early 6 in the morning the next day, we grabbed breakfast and made our way to the Mount Defiance trailhead. We did a 3200ft ascent and spend more time getting back down because the adventurer spirit in us took us around 2 other forks in the trail. We did some scrambling on the ridge of a mountain. (and I was profusely panic-cussing the whole time because I'm TERRIBLY afraid of heights)
All in all, I'm incredibly grateful for the adventures we've had over the summer, and I'm glad we all found ways to explore our own limits and goals as we dodged fallen trees, fought the consequences of carbo-loading strictly with Domino's pizza, and my panic-cussing-inducing fear of heights.
As I say/manifest on the dinky, crumbly rocks of the Alpine layer: "I AM a Mountain Goat, and I am NOT afraid of heights!"
Designing for a Field 'o' Fish!
How I started designing for "my field" once more, marine biology!
After the wild turn of events during Spring quarter which resulted in my employment in the Astronomy and eScience Department here at UW, I couldn't help but wonder if I was going to be a designer for every field of study, except for my ACTUAL field of study! I jest, I jest. But seriously, this whole biologist/designer mish-mash of confusion will certainly come to a peak later during my undergraduate career, but that's for future Samantha to unpack ;)
Anyways, at the middle of the Summer I was contracted by the Salish Sea School to design diagrams they could call their own and use on their education material. It was great to have something in my design gigs that matched with my academic field, and it was such a blast developing diagrams with the organization over the summer. Some of my favorites include a food and energy of the Salish Sea rainbow diagram (pictured to the right!), an echolocation anatomy diagram featuring the inner-workings of an orca and the sound waves bouncing off a salmon, and a biomagnification/bioaccumulation diagram where I got to draw a teeny tiny dog poop on the upper left of the diagram to once more emphasize the importance of being a responsible canine-companion owner.
At the end of the day, I'm just glad that I get the opportunity to supply my design and illustration skills towards organizations and education programs like the Salish Sea School and beyond! Even with my job at Astronomy and eScience, I'm glad I get to be a part of someone's project journey, and I have no clue what they are talking about 99.9% of the time! There is something so wholesome about seeing someone get giddy and excited about their field of study that gets me equally, if not more, excited!
Looking back on Summer 2022
What an adventure!!! Even though I wasn’t taking any summer courses this quarter, I had a on of exciting events going on from my experiential learning project to my mini escapades with family and friends during the hot summer days. Considering I live so close by to campus, many would argue that I probably should have taken some courses to at least make my time here “productive” in regards to earning course credit. However, I must argue that this was already one of my most productive AND RESTFUL summers yet.
What I realized heading into this summer was that it was one of my first summers in a long time that I didn’t have big projects or due dates to worry about related to school. In high school, we’d always have specific projects that would take place over the summer between our first few years. I worked day and night on IB papers and college apps in between my junior and senior year, and all of last summer was chaotic fussing around my house to get myself situated and tie up all my high school business with a neat little bow. I came to the conclusion that I would spend this summer soaking in as much rest and recovery as possible from my rather traumatic spring quarter, and I knew I needed it in the end. I intend to take summer courses for the remaining years I have here at UW, so I was going to let myself have this summer to focus on myself and reset my brain a bit.
With that said, I had heaps of time to focus on opportunities that related to what I loved as well. As mentioned in my Experiential Learning reflection above, I found an internship/research opportunity that had my interests and passions written all over it. With its very flexible schedule, I was able to organize my time the way I wanted to. Same goes for my gigs with UW astronomy and eScience! All of my work was easily done remotely, so I was the one responsible for meeting deadlines and coordinating product orders when necessary. Having this flexibility to do what I want, when I want, is an extreme luxury I will never take for granted as the years go on, because I know that I’ll find myself in positions where such luxury cannot be afforded.
Regardless of my level of flexibility, I explored every nook and cranny of my interests this summer and let myself be generous with “me-time”. I took extra time to recognize what little actions gave me peace of mind, and I crafted a plan for how to approach the academic year with myself and these little actions in mind. I set up checkpoint days during my summer where I would work on a long-term project or planning task such as my maintaining and preparing my UW Honors portfolio for future quarters, taking an extra look at MyPlan (because your girl feels a MILLION times better when there is lots of detail and backups on that site. It’s like my own strange form of reassurance :P), contacting people I’ve been meaning to connect with, and getting ahead in some of my volunteer tasks with Pacific Mammal Research and Salish Sea School.
Ultimately, I do all these little actions with “future Samantha” in mind. I thought she’d appreciate some extra help later down the line from a very calm and relaxed Samantha from the present who actually has loads of extra time on her hands. Also, writing in the third person about yourself is really weird and I don’t know if I like it haha.
With all that preparation in mind, I have to mention this side note: I saw my all-time favorite artists for the second time in concert over this summer! ODESZA had their very first show in 5 years in July and I got to spend it with a friend I met during my first year at UW. I always talk about the little actions and strange tasks that bring me peace, but I always forget to mention the things I listen to or watch to make me feel better. ODESZA’s new album certainly pulled me out of the slump from spring quarter. In fact, they released a few singles from the album throughout spring quarter, and those songs probably made a world of difference during those tough times. This concert and music album may seem like such a small detail in the grand scheme of my summer story, but the impact this experience had on me and my happiness is immeasurable.
I’m extremely happy with how I spent my summer. I discovered new worlds underwater with my Experiential Learning research activity and my other marine science research project on the side, while also enjoying my other adventures with friends along the way. I know I spent my summer in the best way possible because I cannot regret making time for myself for the first time in a long time. I’m proud of my decisions and glad that I’ve cracked the code to Samantha’s college guide to care and happiness. There it is again, third person. Oops!
Thanks for treating me well summer quarter! Can’t wait to see whats in store for Autumn :)
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