Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Month 9 of Project

I am back in Southern Ontario, having left the beautiful landscape of Churchill on August 25 after the grand opening of the new building for the CNSC. I returned from a pleasant 20C to grueling 30C, watched the season change a second time, this time in the south, from a hot summer again to a golden brown fall to a warm, drippy winter. Over the past 4 months after being airlifted out of Manitoba, I have continued work on both of my projects, the microcosm experiment and the podcast. And I feel it is time to revive this blog and see the projects through to completion!

Microcosm Update: Many statistics have been calculated, many conclusions have been drawn, and many more questions emerged with much more to discuss around the topics of arctic pond ecosystems, the role of bacteria in the benthic mats during nutrient uptake, separate responses to nutrient additions for the water column community and the benthic community, the hindsight problems methods that I wish I could have changed (why didn't I take pH readings of the microcosms?), the question of accurate representation of lake conditions, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I wrote a preliminary report and presented to the Waterloo/Laurier group on the findings for an Independent Studies course which will be shaped, poked, and prodded, this term, into a publishable journal article. The data consists of the levels of the added nutrients in the water column, the chlorophyll a response from the phytoplankton and from the benthic community and an analysis of other pigments which needs to be completed this term using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). Because the data will be published, I can't release it here, but I can discuss some of the broader questions (which I began this section with).

Stay tuned for further discussion!

Podcast Update: Avioyak (remember the buzzing in ears?), my obsession and creative outlet, is slowly coming to life along with the voices of the scientists I have not directly spoken with for several months! Two episodes, the one featuring Anne and Lisa's work with semi-palmated plovers and the one featuring Vanya's work with yellow warblers, are nearly complete. Remaining are the episodes on the Hudsonian godwit, zooplankton, and long term wetland monitoring. March 9, 2012 - Look out for the release!

In October and November, I ran a series of surveys asking CNSC visitors to listen to an episode, give me their overall impression of the style, and answer some factual questions to see if they learned anything. I never anticipated conducting a survey to be so difficult. Of course, the logistics, the hard deadlines, and the analysis are difficult, but that is not what I am referring to. Conducting a survey about the design of my own creative outlet, my brainchild, my art that contains my personal opinions about how science should be presented to the public and what I think is creative and fun, is truly difficult because of the critical feedback where listeners just didn't necessarily get it. The purpose of the survey was to learn about what the target audience might not "get" or what they think should be improved and, in design theory, this is exactly what designers are supposed to do. But in practice, I am so close to the project that it is very difficult not to take the comments personally even when I know the comments are constructive criticism.

Constructive criticism. Constructive: focus on the constructive because a lot of the comments really could help in the construction/conceptualization/development of the next episode, such as maintaining level sound quality, slowing down the narration, having distinct sections etc. Unfortunately, it is hard not to continually hear the criticism of my ideas and my art, the heartbreak of not being understood as I am sure so many artists and creatives have encountered. So to my future self and to others who are putting their creative selves on display, and especially for those that are honestly seeking the constructive criticism of others:

"Creativity takes courage."
- Henri Matisse
"Do what you feel in your heart to be right,
for you'll be criticized anyway."
-Eleanor Roosevelt

"To escape criticism - do nothing, say nothing, be nothing."
- Elbert Hubbard
By far, the biggest challenge was getting over the criticism which I willingly asked for! But tears were not shed in vain! The podcast and I am stronger for it and I am doing something, saying something and being something!

As the podcast develops this term, I will keep you updated and I am sure keep you informed of the latest rants of the media/science/Churchill obsessed producer. Until then... the latest wintery welcome by Kat.

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