Since last time, my interns and I have done some more analysis on our data, but are not yet completely satisfied with our answers. Basically, we have our overall results, but now we want to specify the findings and hope to search for some distinct patterns, characteristics, etc. in our data. But meanwhile, we still spend most of our time on the prairie trying to get through weeding the whole site at least once (let me tell you, I thought it would have been an easier feat, but it has been a long, enduring time).
While I’ve been working fairly extensively with data processing and R all throughout my project, I’ve reached a point where the real coding challenges begin. Up to till now, the scripts I have written have been fairly straightforward. I’ve mostly just been data processing: pulling columns and variables out of CSV files, sorting which species are herbs or shrubs, and determining which plots I need to visit. Now that all my data is in a format where I know I can use it, the analyses begin, particularly, phylogenetic analyses.
Once a week I leave the air conditioning to head out to the tree nursery. Each week I come across something new; a bird, a butterfly, a squirrel… The Morton Arboretum has so much more life to offer than just the trees!
The summer is flying by! It’s hard to believe that it’s already week six, and my days of going out into the field are nearly over! For the remainder of my project, I will be doing mostly data analysis with a lot of statistics and phylogenetics sprinkled in. Just last week, I was finishing up collecting my specimens. You might think hunting for specific species would get boring. However, as I studied each species in preparation for collecting them and identifying them, I was amazed by the trait diversity that exists in our temperate forests!
One of the things that was most exciting to me when I accepted the Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the Morton Arboretum was the prospect of field work! The project I am working on this summer with the Herbarium is a cool blend of old fashioned plant collections in the field and cutting edge computational work using phylogenetics and R, a statistics based programming language.