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Looking On The Bright Side

It has been about a month since we started our internship and I am so happy at how smoothly everything has been going. Internships across the world have been canceled, but our REU program is still going strong.

This summer I am working with Tricia Bethke developing a pilot program for early detection and rapid response (EDRR) of Lycorma delicatula (spotted lanternfly) and Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven). Our goal is to create high-risk pathways in the Chicagoland area that we can monitor for years to come. We are using information from the 2010 Tree Census to find our initial sites. Fortunately for us, we can do some field work since I live in the area. We have been surveying twice a week and only have one more site to survey!

Although this summer has exceeded my expectations there are still areas in which I find difficult. Adjusting to working during the pandemic has been a challenge. In normal circumstances, the REU students would be living together in a dorm and commuting to the Arboretum together. Most days I wake up in my parents’ house, walk five feet to my childhood desk, turn on my computer, and start my day.  

A cat next to a desk
My cat Lucifer enjoys watching and sometimes participating in Zoom calls!
Leslie Vargas

At first, it was hard to set a schedule for my day to day work, but after about a week I found my rhythm. Learning to be tech-savvy was a challenge in and of itself. Navigating Zoom calls, Google Drive, and keeping up with emails has been a little crazy. I think I’ve written more emails in the last month than in the last year, and if you’re anything like me, those emails get cluttered in inboxes that can sometimes feel overwhelming.  Even with the new learning curve, this summer has been going great. Learning to be flexible and to communicate better has been something I have been and will continue working on. I’m excited to see what the next half of the summer has in store for us.

About the Author
Hello, My name is Leslie Vargas, I am an REU student funded by the Doris Duke Conservation Scholar program. I am a senior at the University of the South in Sewanee TN majoring in Natural Resources and the Environment with minors in Psychology and Environmental studies.