Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What this Creative Inquiry Means to Me

The following is guest post by Meghan McDevitt, a junior at Clemson University enrolled in Dr. Barrett's Creative Inquiry course focused on amphibian conservation.

Every summer, my family would pack into our car and drive ten or so hours to the Appalachian Mountains. North Carolina is where I spent my childhood when I wasn't in Pennsylvania. I have such a love for this place and all of the diverse wildlife. The mountains seemed to come alive when we would go out hiking or rock hopping, and I was mesmerized by the amount of rainfall every summer. Starting at a young age, my brothers introduced me to the world of amphibians and aquatic insects. We would spend all day looking for big salamanders and "crawdaddys," enjoying all that nature had to offer. This passion for the outdoors has been carried throughout my life and has led me to where I am today: in a science-based major, studying salamanders and ecology in my free time. Going to the mountains feels like going home and I get to do this with an awesome creative inquiry.

My interest was enhanced when I entered middle school. When most were taking normal classes with all the other students, I was with 40 sixth and seventh graders in a program called Streamwatch. This was a two-year curriculum for those passionate about the sciences. We got to learn about watersheds, plant life, invertebrates, and various information about stream studies, as well as course subjects. This was heaven for me; I got to spend two years with such interesting students, dressing up as caddisflies and mayflies, changing fish tanks, and best of all, studying streams. Every other week, we took trips to our local watershed system and performed fieldwork in the streams. This was my first experience with hands on research and I loved it. While everyone else was a bit hesitant around the worms and larvae, I was immersed in the algae and macro invertebrates. It wouldn't be a field trip if I didn't come home covered in algae and dirt. The data collected went to the Chester County Parks system, and we'd collect all sorts of information from stream flow to pH and salinity. This is what sparked my interest in stream ecology.

The passion for science continued throughout my school years, resulting in me taking biology twice in high school (just because I enjoyed it so much) and being a teacher's assistant for biology. Coming to Clemson, I knew I wanted to be doing hands on research and be active in the field. Though I got off course switching from Biological Sciences to Engineering, I got right back on track Sophomore year changing to ENR: Conservation Biology. This is exactly what I can see myself doing in the future and is right up my ally. When I heard about this creative inquiry, it was like stepping back into my six year old self. I was ecstatic to be working with salamanders in the mountains, fusing both my passions and interests into one course. So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed the class. The students are all open-minded, interesting, and nice people. We work well together and can get things done while still having fun. Going out to sites is also such a great experience because we get a feel of what it's like to perform research in the field. This creative inquiry has opened my eyes to all sorts of topics to work in and I am so thankful for the opportunity. I love being able to use my plant taxonomy skills and acquire even more knowledge about wildlife biology, stream ecology, and the Appalachians. I am looking forward to the more semesters to come with this class as well as the research over the summer. This is such an interesting research topic and I will definitely apply it to real life situations, for example, reminding my family about this issue and making changes at our mountain house to prevent any more damages.

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