In the last few weeks I have added 4 new rare plant photos to the walls of my cubicle, quality control checked at least 500 plant entries and just wrapped up a summary of the herbivory on our Sclerocactus plots!
Here is a photo of how my mind works in the office:
Working here in the Colorado State Office, I realized something pretty early on, there is a lot of data… a ton of data, many, much, mucho data. On top of it, it is often data that no one else has and it is therefore coveted. In order to ensure that this coveted data is accurate I had an idea that quality checking all of it would be a good way to get to understand and find interesting things to do with it. It is in fact, true, that you can find out a lot about data when you comb through it plant by plant, which has lead me to add transects to a plot that we had previously surveyed using a consensus method and has more recently allowed me to analyse the amount of herbivory on each Sclerocactus glaucus plots.
On one hand, looking over all that data is a little tedious, but on the other hand it is exciting to see all the work that has been done here and how it changed over time.I also enjoy seeing how people’s minds work, how the monitoring was first attempted and refined over time. Simple things like creating datasheets with the tags that were present on each site decreased the number of errors exponentially.
The best part of this internship for me (and a potential negative for our data) is that every year new people come to help out in the monitoring efforts. Not only does that provide our team with a much needed extra sets of hands but it also introduces different people to the work that we do. It excites me to think about the ways we can guide people’s minds to get the best results for us. Meaning that if we can figure out a way to encourage people in the direction of collecting accurate data, we could make scientists out of everyone! This is where social science and plant science mix! We, at this point in history, need people to collect information on plants, animals, insects etc. but not everyone knows that it is important to observe. For us, for example, it is important to know whether a plant died due to herbivory by a rodent, or say a human stepping on it (oops…). Hopefully we will continue to help people open their eyes to the interesting details of nature.
In breaks from all the data I also had the chance to bring in my microscope for some grass identification. Even though this was Brooke, the other intern’s job, I was also able to put in my two cents. Although only a few spikelets shot from under my dissecting tweezers, it still took us a minute to figure out this pretty common Trisetum spicatum. But no time is ever lost on the quest for understanding grasses, so I had a fun time doing it.
The year is, as of now, coming to an end and things are wrapping up. I am excited with the species summaries that Carol and Phil are working on this winter and will be interested in hearing the updates on what is happening in the rare plant world of Colorado.
Until next time,