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It is now my senior year at Juniata, and for the third time, I traveled to Quebec during fall break (October 11th to the 14th). Unlike previous years, this trip was something that I especially looking forward to for several reasons:
Fall break this year came about 2 days after the Fulbright program’s deadline. The application process was very challenging, and by far, it has been the most difficult application that I have written. I applied for a linguistics research Fulbright in Cote d’Ivoire, a project that stemmed from my internship in Strasbourg, France in the Spring of 2018. I worked diligently with a cadre of faculty members who pushed me to craft a competitive and compelling research project. The process got overwhelming and intense at times, so after the Oct. 9th deadline, I was excited to travel to Quebec and celebrate, alongside another Fulbright applicant and a friend of mine, Annaleigh Baremore.
Annaleigh and I are French club officers and worked together to plan this trip, despite meeting many obstacles. First, the Quebec trip did not occur during the previous year when Annaleigh and I were abroad. Professor Henderson who is head of the French department and also the club’s advisor was away on sabbatical. As seniors, Annaleigh and I wanted to bring this trip back, and travel to Quebec one last time. Another issue that we encountered was the high cost of transport, which almost canceled the trip. However, at the very last minute, the Office of Student of Activities gave us a minivan and two vehicles to go to Canada!
This 3rd trip to Canada was in my opinion the best because we had a diverse cadre of students. The trips were previously dominated by French speakers, but this time we had students who spoke Spanish, Korean, German and Hindi. I was happy to see them participating and learning about francophone cultures. They all tried poutine, maple syrups, all specialty of Canada. In addition, because we all shared various backgrounds, we tried other cultural foods: we went to a Korean restaurant in Montreal called Kantapia and drank some bubble tea at Chai. Once in Quebec City, we had dinner at a Cambodian restaurant and tried a delicious tapioca desert!
Although the experience was tiring, given that we had a 12hours ride back to campus, I would do it once again if could. As it is my last year at Juniata, I will be looking at various memories such as this trip to smile back on.
By guest blogger, Aidan Griffiths ’22
There’s nothing quite like Fall hawk migration. Hundreds of thousands of birds of prey take advantage of the favorable Autumn winds and migrate south for the winter, sometimes grouping together in flocks of hundreds or even thousands of individuals at a time. Many enthusiastic observers gather each year to watch this amazing phenomenon, and it just so happens that Central Pennsylvania is one of the best areas in the country to do so. These majestic birds follow the abundant mountain ridges in Huntingdon and surrounding counties because the updraft of air off the mountain slopes helps them achieve lift. They also ride the warm currents of air, called thermals, that rise off the surrounding land. This allows observers to get fantastic views of many raptor species as they ride these thermals to the top and sail over the mountain. On October Seventh, the Juniata College Chapter of the Wildlife Society traveled to the Stone Mountain hawk-watching site in northern Huntingdon County to do just that!
Seven of us Wildlifers met bright and early (for a Sunday) at 9 AM behind Brumbaugh Academic Center. We took inventory, did some quick introductions, and carpooled up to Stone Mountain. On the ride up, we weren’t very optimistic about our chances of seeing good raptor activity. The winds were blowing from the South, which is the wrong direction for birds that want to end up there. Perhaps more to the point, there was a pea-soup fog that seemed to get thicker the farther up the mountain we got. When we finally got out of our vehicles, we could barely see six feet in front of us, and the rocky path leading up to the hawkwatch was wet and slippery. Nevertheless, we made the brief trek up to the platform. The view we had was such that we wouldn’t have been able to tell a hawk apart from our left knee, but we did have some nice birds at the summit. A small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, and other songbirds greeted us with little chirps and squeaks while we waited for the mid-morning sun to burn off the fog. Our formal guide, Luke Fultz, had informed the leaders earlier in the morning that he wouldn’t be arriving until ten o’clock, and we were starting to wonder if we should have done the same. However, as the warmth of the rising sun increased, the fog burned off and blew away, and were left with a gorgeous view of Central Pennsylvania valleys and Jack’s Mountain on the ridge opposite us. And, of course, the dissipating fog heralded the arrival of our birds!
At about 10:30, we started seeing our first migrants. A group of four Tree Swallows passed daintily overhead heading south. Several groups of Turkey Vultures started lifting off and soaring over the ridge, some cruising right by us. In one group that we saw from above, we noticed another vulture species: A Black Vulture. The sun shone brilliantly off its plumage, and we were able to see the telltale silver wingtips and difference in size and shape compared to the nearby Turkey Vultures. Around this time, Luke and his friend Desmond arrived. He gave us a brief lesson about raptor identification and passed out some laminated fliers showing them in flight. Not long after, a Common Raven and a beautiful female Northern Harrier gave us amazing views as they passed the platform. We also had some songbird migrants overhead: a few warblers that zipped by too fast to identify and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. In the midday sun, many of us found we were baking in our sweatshirts and long pants, so we shed as many layers as was appropriate for an academic setting.
About this time, Greg Grove, the regional eBird reviewer for Huntingdon County, arrived at the platform. A brief digression: For those of you who don’t know what eBird is (which is probably most of you), it is an online citizen science database where birders can submit their sightings, view other people’s sightings, and learn more about the birds of the world. It’s also a great resource for scientists and conservationists who want to learn more about the status of various populations of birds. Greg and his wife have been birding in Huntingdon for over twenty years, and Greg is one of the primary hawk counters for the Stone Mountain site. He helped us recognize the differences between Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks. He pointed out the “top heavy” appearance, smaller size, and more fluttery flight of the Sharp-shinned compared to its larger, more fearsome-looking cousin. A couple male American Kestrels, North America’s smallest falcon, also sailed by the platform and wowed us with their beautiful blue, orange, and white plumage. A distant Red-tailed Hawk and another Raven concluded the day’s count. We thanked Luke and Greg for their help, gathered our things, and descended back down towards the parking lot. On our way down, we demonstrated our aptitude for non-bird wildlife observation when one of our leaders spotted a snake sunning itself on a rock. Unfortunately, it saw us and darted into the craggy rocks before we could identify it. When we arrived back at the cars, we rolled down the windows, grateful for the opportunity to cool off. On our way back to campus, we reveled in our success. It was a great day with great birds and great weather, shared by great people! It was definitely one of my favorite college experiences thus far!
This past weekend, several Juniata students had the opportunity to present their research at the Allegheny Branch of the American Society of Microbiology’s yearly conference. As a bonus the meeting was held right here at Juniata in the von Liebig Center for Science. The conference took place over the course of roughly thirty-six hours starting from early afternoon on Friday and ending early evening on Saturday. Over the course of those thirty-six hours students from nineteen institutions, both graduate and undergraduate, had the opportunity to learn about a diverse range of topics from distinguished speakers and from one another. There were several unique presentations over the two-day period. The first was a self-mentorship workshop where the speaker guided us through introspective searches into our deepest desires and goals which we later used to help craft a personal mission statement. The next day we participated in a workshop given by a Juniata alumnus that now works at Ecovative, a company that produces biodegradable packaging products with fungus. We even got to take some samples home with us! To close out the conference Juniata’s very own Dr. Belle Tuten, a history professor that specializes in medieval medicine, gave a talk on the methods by which doctors in medieval times used to treat wounds. The subject matter, which was quite humorous by itself, was made even more so by Dr. Tuten delivering her speech as if the medical practices of the past were perfectly reasonable methods for treating diseases.
While the workshops and speaker sessions were fun and educational, nothing compared to the student presentations. Although I presented this summer at the Landmark Conference at Susquehanna University, presenting at an actual society meeting had a much more significant feel to it. Sharing my hard work with a room full of people who were just as big or bigger science nerds than me was phenomenal and then being able to sit back down and learn about all the other awesome projects students were working on was just as exhilarating. This conference further affirmed by desire to go into research when I graduate from Juniata this May. I learned so many new things about tools like CRISPR and about how viruses affect fetal brain development, to cover just a few things. This conference increased my thirst for knowledge and understanding about the scientific world and made me that much more excited about graduate school next year.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the constant support and mentoring by Dr. Regina Lamendella and Justin Wright and their lab. Without them I highly doubt that our lab would have done so well at the conference, and many of us that presented wouldn’t have had as high quality research to present on without their connections and collaborations. There are many labs that conduct undergraduate research on campus. Students can do research in almost every department on campus, and many students present this research at local, regional and national conferences, including the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and our very own Liberal Arts Symposium which we host every Spring.
From my experience, albeit limited, Juniata has one of the best programs for undergraduate research. Everyone is encouraged to participate and you can get involved as early as your freshmen year. All it takes is a little initiative, drive to succeed and no small amount of curiosity on your part. Even if you don’t think you’ll like research, I still encourage you to participate. You might find, like me, that you love research and the amazing sense of discovery that comes with it, and find it much more satisfying than being a doctor. Or you might not. It is better to try and not like it, then never try and miss out on an amazing opportunity. Not only that but if you do want to go to med school it looks good if you have done research.
I leave you with this: Research can be difficult. There are days where you will want to pull your hair out because your line of code just isn’t working or your organic reaction has failed for the twentieth time. If you get nothing else out of research, you will at least learn the ability to fail. Yes, the ability to fail. It is an art, one that I am still mastering. Sure, succeeding at everything you do feels great, but you don’t really learn anything from it. Failing teaches perseverance and creativity. Believe me, you do a lot of failing when you first start researching. You learn as you go and slowly, you improve. The quality of your work gets better as does the understanding of your project, and for me, my desire to learn more about what I was researching also increased. It is quite a journey but there is no better place to undertake that journey than Juniata.
Amigos de Guanin is hosting its annual International Food Fair and Talent Show. This event is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year. As secretary of the club, I am very excited for the event on Saturday, February 18th. All proceeds go to an underdeveloped community in the Dominican Republic that I visited in 2015 with a group of students on a one credit service trip. I fell in love with the community and have been raising money ever since.
The International Food Fair and Talent show is an invent where we get other clubs to help us make multiple dishes from around the world. This year, we have dishes such as matzah ball soup, a rice and beans dish, and many more. Following these delicious dishes will be talent from places such as Africa, the Dominican Republic, and many others.
A lot of planning has gone into this event. It will be held in Baker Refectory from 7-9PM and tickets are $8 with student ID, otherwise $10 at the door. You will be receiving a plate full of food, a night full of talent, and an experience like no other. Ellen Campbell, Dean of Students and other speakers will be presenting throughout the evening.
I am so happy to be part of a club like Amigos de Guanin. It is my senior year and so it is my last year involved with this fundraising experience, but I really am honored to have been a part of this work and I hope to continue to contribute even after graduation.
As the school year comes to an end, there are more and more activities and events on campus. Most recently, I was involved in the week-long Francophonie festival, which was organized by the French club. After having been recognized by the French embassy for its diversity and contribution to the French Language, the French club celebrated and showcased the various cultures of French speaking countries. The club members and I pulled our strengths together to make dishes, create performances and presentations, and promote Francophone culture.
The week-long festival started with short country presentations given to the public by students representing a particular francophone country, including Côte d’Ivoire (given by me!), Tunisia, Bretagne (a region of France), Burkina Faso, and of course, France! I even learned some fun country facts; Planet Tatooine from Star Wars is an actual town in Tunisia! There were also movie screenings such as Kirikou and the Sorceress, one of my favorite animated films, and Timbuktu, an Oscar nominee for best foreign film, which shows the effects of Jihadism on both the victims and culprits. I was very happy to see that some of the events were considered extra credit for various courses!
To conclude the event, we organized a dinner, with dishes from various francophone countries. As a result, I decided to make our famous alloco (fried plantains), fried sweet potatoes, and my own recipe called sardine fried rice. This dish in particular was a combination of a fried rice recipe, taken from my host mother during my stay in China, and Ivorian spices! The biggest challenge was obtaining ripe plantains two days before the dinner. Although it seemed impossible, we were able to find the ideal plantains in the local Walmart! Other dishes included Tunisian couscous and gratin dauphinois from France. In the audience, there were middle and high school students present, and they enjoyed the food as well as learning about the Francophone world.
Finally, the dinner came to an end with an energetic dance performance by me, Haruka, the French club’s president, and Joël from Burkina Farso, to a song called “Remanbele,” by Serge Beynaud. The dance moves were mostly based on an Ivorian dance and musical style called coupé-décalé! My friend, Yasmine, also performed an Arabic dance from Tunisia. Given the success of the festival, the French club and I look forward to making the event happen again next year, and every year after that!