Plankton-helping prepare me for my future career

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what “Limnology” even meant a few months ago. (I’ll save you the Googling – it’s the study of inland lakes and rivers.) As I near the end of my first semester at SPEA, I can say that Limnology is one of my most challenging classes, and probably my most exciting. This Friday we’re going electrofishing with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). We’ll go out into the field to identify the fish species we find in White Lick Creek and talk about our findings with the IDEM professionals.  How cool is that?

On our past field trips this semester, we collected water samples, macroinvertebrates and small fish from University Lake, Crooked Lake and Clear Creek. Then we analyzed all of our samples in the SPEA lab and discussed our findings. I’m studying here to prepare for a career working on clean drinking water projects in developing communities, so these water quality testing skills will be immensely helpful. I’m even trying to use this experience to get a water quality internship in Kenya this summer!

I spent more of September looking at plankton under a microscope than I ever imagined possible. I also talked about plankton to pretty much anyone who would listen, as I am continually fascinated by what we can tell about water quality from microscopic algae and zooplankton floating unseen in the water. The hands-on experience I’m getting in this Limnology class makes me even more excited about a career working on water projects.

At a campfire a few weeks ago, I started a conversation by announcing to the group that I’d stored a pickle jar of fish in the pocket of my overall fishing waders earlier that day. That’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d say, but something that’s become part of my studies here in the MPA/MSES program. Let’s see if I have any new dinner party one-liners after this week’s field trip to White Lick Creek.

– Shannon


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