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A Blurry Picture Coming Into Focus

A Blurry Picture Coming Into Focus
Plot label for our first photography method plot, which marks the beginning of each plot's photograph data

This past week and a half has been full on! I have been diving head first into the depths of my project, which is both exciting and exhausting. It seems as though the deeper you get, the more questions you have. That’s just science at its finest!


The great news is that Chuck’s new research assistent, Lane, will be able to assist me for the bulk of the rest of my project. She just finished her bachelor's degree and has had a fair amount of experience with designing and conducting research projects. It has been really nice to go out into the field with the same person every day to have someone I can constantly bounce ideas off of as they come up (which is all of the time). So she has not only become a crucial player in the development of this research project, but another person here who I have been able to create a connection with.


This summer is so much more than just a way to get experience conducting research. I feel that I have and will be able to create so many amazing, long lasting friendships and connections while I am here.  I am so thankful to be in a place where a glass half full outlook on life is the norm. When someone is faced with a problem they need to solve, they always approach it with a smiling face and a positive attitude. Whenever I have run into a problem, there are so many people willing give me some advice or lend a hand. It is almost a requirement to wave or say hi to everyone you pass. I guess trees just make people happy and stress free!


The branch of a massive, old Bur Oak that sweeps down to the grassy meadow below on a beautiful sunny summer day
This is the view of an old, massive Bur Oak on the Arboretum grounds from a beautiful wooden bench next to it. Definitely one of my favorite trees and one of my favorite spots.
Alison McGarigal


As for my project status, I am happy to say that it has come quite a ways since my last post. With the help of Lane and the guidance of Chuck, the blurry picture of my project becomes more and more in focus.  So far, Lane and I have been able to measure several plots using both the photography and the traditional method, and we are currently chipping away at the laser method (which I will try to explain in more detail in my next post because it is really cool!). This has allowed us to get familiar with these three techniques, as well as come up with many questions for the designer of this particular photography protocol. This method we are using was developed by an Australian scientist named Ben Sparrow, who we are lucky enough to be in contact with. We had a really fruitful talk with him and a partner of his yesterday on Skype which answered many of our burning questions. It was nice to here some Austrailian accents again (my high school biology teacher was Austrailian)! They will start to run our photos through their program to make sure they are working properly very soon. Hopefully his program that analyse the photographs will give us some interesting results so we can start comparing these three methods to each other.


I hope everyone had a fun Fourth of July weekend! Kirsten, another research fellow, and her family invited me to their cabin up in Wisconsin for the weekend, which was a blast! The kindness of people never ceases to amaze me.


Till next week,