The Important Impact of Pollinators (and of the CBG)

Week 10 is here, and I cannot believe how fast the summer has gone! I am astonished at how much we packed into such a limited time. My data is collected and analyzed, my poster finished, and my video in the last stages of editing.

An interface of COLONY, the software I used for paternity analysis.

The last weeks have not been without challenges. CERVUS, the original software I planned to use for paternity analysis, used a pairwise-only approach, which produced a less-than-satisfactory output when applied to my data. So we found a new software, COLONY, and I spent my evening reading a software manual, playing with parameters, and studying the algorithms. Then we discovered that pollinator guild data was missing for 3 of my Clarkia populations - a problem because pollinator guild correlation is the basis of the entire project. By comparing genetic diversity, inbreeding, and distance, we were able to make a confident prediction about these populations. Our data even suggested that one population was selfing, a point of particular interest. Ultimately, my data did show correlation between pollinator guild and genetic diversity, inbreeding, and multiple paternity. These trends will contribute to more informed and intentional decisions in future conservation and research.

Walking away with presentable and meaningful data certainly feels rewarding - but the experiences of this summer hold the most value for me. I have learned to plan even with countless unknowns and variables. I have improved my ability to work independently and creatively problem-solve. My library research skills have increased in efficiency and profitable yield. I definitely gained a new appreciation for video editing, and my ability to manipulate computer software has substantially improved. I have learned a lot about graduate school and the options available. Through the College First mentoring program, I have also had practice articulating complicated ideas in a clear and accurate way. 

Most significantly, I have had the privilege to interact with and work alongside some incredible scientists and students. Everyone involved has shown that they genuinely care about our education and experience this summer - especially Jeremie, Andrea, and Chris (the PIs). I know that many college students are stuck with mundane or even horrible internships out of necessity, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked a job that I loved so much. The CBG should serve as example to the scientific community - not only do they conduct stellar research, but they are committed to education and local communities. I am sad to leave this wonderful garden; however, I am honored to have had this opportunity and to have worked with such amazing people. I will never forget my summer here! Thank you, Chicago Botanic Garden!