It’s been a strange few months. Like most universities, we finished our semester virtually. I found it incredibly challenging, the most difficult semester of my career by far. I am thankful for the support I received from friends and family, especially my Animal Behavior peer mentoring group. My students were patient and committed despite diverse challenges that included everything from financial insecurity, to mental health issues, to sick family members and friends — some even lost loved ones to COVID during the semester. Their resilience was incredible and inspiring. As for coursework, my senior evolution students worked all semester to rear crickets in different treatments and develop research projects, but we were unable to collect data because we had to euthanize the laboratory animals when campus shut down. It was incredibly disappointing, but I am proud of the creative research projects they proposed. Our virtual biology graduation was a highlight (screenshot below).
What about research? I worked with two fantastic undergraduates this semester, and we planned to travel to Hawaii this summer for fieldwork. Due to travel restrictions, we had to cancel the field season. It’s devastating that these students missed the opportunity to conduct fieldwork. Additionally, the data that we planned to collect were critical for current and future publications and grant proposals.
Is there a silver lining? I have more free time than I’ve had in years. Maybe I’ll finally revisit the backlog of data from my PhD and postdoc that I haven’t had time to publish. Thanks to technology, I’ve also been able to maintain research collaborations. Despite the challenges and disappointments this semester and summer, I’m lucky to have a home, a job, and to be quarantined with my partner. It’s also fortunate that I love to cook–I’ve had a blast getting creative with what I can find in the store. Here are some highlights.
I’ve thought a lot about the unique challenges everyone is facing right now, and my heart goes out to all those affected. I’m hopeful that this pandemic will result in positive societal changes, and I’m excited to see what higher education will look like in the future. Stay safe everyone!