More than a Boring Quadrat Story

Strolling through EFTA’s Instagram and Twitter, one is immediately inundated with pictures of beautiful marshes, rivers, lakes, coasts, glaciers, and mountains, and blown away by the professional-looking photos of unique birds and festive outreach events. We EFTA interns are indeed a pretty lucky bunch; we get the opportunity to visit and work in places where most people just dream off.

However, for myself, the internship is more than just this fact. Working in a Reserve is amazing and being able to work with wildlife hardly seems like work at all but there is another aspect of this internship that I absolutely love, even though most might see it as mundane and tedious, which is making quadrats. Now its not the actual quadrats that I love to make but its the process and the idea of making a scientific tool from scratch that I am obsessed with.

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This might be because I am a pretty independent person and I’ve always been the type who at the end of the day likes to be left alone to work on building something with my own wits and two hands. As a child I often spent hours in my room building random structures with my LEGO sets. If you are familiar with LEGOS, then you know that when you buy a set there is a picture on the box of what the LEGO set builds. I never liked building that. What’s the fun in that? Simply copying something that was in front of me didn’t have much appeal. Same when I was in college. I was often bored in my lab classes when I just had to read the instructions of these already prepared compounds and mixes in order to create this chemical reaction… that can be accelerate with this enzyme…. and wow you just made aspirin.

Making those quadrants out of old pvc pipes in the Reserve’s maintenance shop was the most fun I’ve had in a long while. They are my quadrats; those are my tools that I created for my field biology. This wasn’t something that just appeared from behind the scenes. This was the product of hours of measuring, sawing, drilling, and gluing. At the end my hands were dusty with splinters here and there. So while it is a blessing trekking wildlife areas in search of rare birds and being in an outreach event looking for the next Latino environmental leaders don’t forget the fun you can get from building you own tools in a poorly light, woody smelling, and dusty maintenance shop.

dangomez04
dangomez@sas.upenn.edu
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