Reflections from the Everglades

Queue cliché and sappy background music 

Five years of trudging through the mangrove and sawgrass swamps of the Everglades. Five years of collecting water samples, analyzing samples, and presenting the major findings across the country. All of those years, and now finally it comes to fruition…the Dissertation Defense.

Yes, I finally made it. As some of you know, there is no clear-cut path (that would be environmentally irresponsible), but instead it can be a long and arduous road. It is on this journey of science that we go from seeing just a tree to seeing the forest. I can’t speak for everyone, but I liken grad school to a roller coaster; the ups

the downs,

and the exciting twists and turns.

And in the end, the ride slows down and then stops to let you out. When you step out, sure you have a cool looking degree, get to wear a fancy gown, and have a prestigious prefix, but its way more than that. You have gone through the gauntlet and survived. Just think back out all the things you have accomplished; the presentations you've made, the people you've connected with, the knowledge you have acquired in the field and in the lab, the deadlines you thought you weren't going to make, the amazing sites that you've seen, etc. Those accomplishments will be what you remember later when you’re working in academia, the government, or private industry. In addition, it’s not just the accomplishments, it’s also the process;
Long days out in field,

all-nighters before deadlines,

the “Aha!” moments,  

that help contribute to who we are as researchers.

In the words of President Kennedy, “We choose […] to do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win"

I am glad to have been part of the LTER program, and more specifically the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER of which I do not intend to break ties with. There are so many amazing opportunities that the LTER program has offered, and I am glad that I was able to participate where and when I could. I encourage those of you involved in the LTER to make efforts to join in on many of these opportunities from the LTER ASM (next one 2015) to various LTER workshops. You can even make your own opportunities through collaborations with faculty and other students in the LTER program. And for those of you not involved with the LTER, I encourage you to read up on some of the awesome research that the LTER contributes to the science community.  

This was [a portion] of my contribution...
...linking ion concentrations with spectral reflectance, estimating changes to evapotranspiration, and identifying groundwater flow and biogeochemical pathways. 

I hope to contribute more to our understanding of coastal systems and interrelationships between hydrology and ecology in the years to come with the help from the LTER program. 


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