That one time I went to Florida for science

I keep thinking it’s been ages since my last blog post, but I realize it was only 10 days ago. This week has been really busy and downright exhausting , albeit beneficial—and I find myself a little uncertain of what, exactly to comment on.

West Palm Beach            Two days after New Year’s Day, I flew off to Florida to attend the SICB Annual Meeting 2015 (SICB = Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology), where I was to spend four days listening to research talks and present my own research in a student poster symposium.

And I began the meeting utterly dead.

I entered the travel day yet again with 2 hours of sleep not wholly of my own volition (I was aiming for about 4), and I finally arrived at the hotel in West Palm Beach at 1am. 8 hours later, I was at the conference center, trying to maintain consciousness and motivation because I was presenting my poster at 3:45 that afternoon.

After listening to a great many talks, I ventured up to my poster right on time (I wasn’t going to stand there any earlier than I had to), and the first person that came to hear about my research completely grilled me. But it helped jog my memory and the rest of the 2 hours went more smoothly. Somewhere along the line, the epinephrine woke me up.

Our advisor signed us up for a “best poster” competition, which I was apprehensive about, because that meant we were going to be judged. But the judge was a very sweet little lady with bobbed gray hair and a pink sweater, and we ended up fangirling over the thermoregulative properties of toucan bills (even though my research was on hummingbirds). So it was fun, overall.

Then we went back to the hotel and passed out for 3 hours before actually going to bed.

Fortunately, the next day was easier.

Our supervisor gave us the freedom to plan our days, provided we didn’t ditch the entirety of the conference—which would have been lame. So one day my three other lab partners and I walked to the beach, and on the last day, some of us went to the zoo—which was a lot of fun after filling my head with what I could list out by name but for the purpose of succinctness I’ll just fondly call science.

My head was filled with much science, and it was a nice cap to the bulk of my experience as a research intern.

I was chronically surly and unmotivated for most of these days, because I really didn’t like feeling so dragged around. When we finally made it to the zoo, I was worried my irritability—and general notion that I shouldn’t have spontaneously decided to brave public transportation and walk around the zoo in business attire—would dampen things.

As my lab partners and I sat at the zoo café, surrounded by American White Ibis who wanted our food and honked at each other when food was bestowed, listening to male grackles having a display-off for a female rooting around in the brush and trying to decide who was the fittest, along with what neurological triggers and tradeoffs played into their behavior, I decided I was glad I came.

photo (4)All throughout the meeting, I was interested in learning about hormones, genetics, and comparative ecology, so I attended quite a bit of those when not following my lab partners around because I sometimes wasn’t interested in striking off on my own. I tended toward simply planting myself in a full session instead of dodging around rooms for specific talks on different overarching subjects. I learned so much. If you want to hear more details on what “so much” entails, I’d be happy to to tell you about it. (Seriously though. Science.)

This last six months have been highly taxing, as I’ve been fighting with an extreme shortage of social energy/interest, patience, and motivation. So traveling like this rudely launched me out of where I wanted to be, and I highly doubt I was the easiest person to spend a significant amount of time around, especially for my more socially-enthusiastic friends (who are also my lab partners) [Sorry guys…]

But my friends dragged me along like grumpy cousin Draco, for which I really am quite grateful. I got more out of the experience that way.

On the voyage back, we came extremely close to missing our connecting flight to PDX. I could go into detail about how everything just kept getting worse, but I’m sure anyone who’s traveled much by air can imagine what we went through. (It was my first experience like this, and in Washington DC, no less.) And then on the plane I had an unexpected intimate moment with God, which consisted of no actual words, only memories and impressions. Like an arm thrown around my shoulders, pulling me into a hug and gently holding me there.

I wasn’t even actively worrying about anything. But it happened. Simple and subtle, a reassurinphoto (6)g “I’m still here.”

I haven’t had a moment like that in such a long time. In fact, I didn’t even expect to be receptive.

My last semester begins Monday, and it is shaping up to be so much busier than my surly, dormant self would like.

But, all things considered, I think I’ll be all right.

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