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Home Away From Home

This year, Stephanie Letourneau is living at the Raystown Field Station and running her own blog about the adventures there! To not miss any of her updates, follow her blog Pursuing Passions.

Waving hello from the lake!

The Field Station Harbor

The Field Station Harbor

On August 22nd, I successfully moved into the Raystown Field Station.  We had a presentation after moving in on field safety and then went down to the fire pit by the lake for s’mores and residential life information.

The schedule at the field station includes having one class all day each day.  Our first day was an introduction to the station, tours, and logistics.

My class schedule is:

Mondays – GIS

Tuesdays – Sense of Place Seminar and Nature Photography

Wednesdays – Research

Thursdays – Aquatic Ecology

Fridays – Limnology

Our first class was Limnology on Friday.   We have only had a few classes, but so far, we have designed a leaf decomposition study as a class to evaluate nearby ponds and Raystown Lake.  Our labs the past two weeks have comprised of going out on the lake on the boat and measuring the lake’s physical and chemical properties.

Using a probe to measure dissolved oxygen at different depths of Raystown Lake

Using a probe to measure dissolved oxygen at different depths of Raystown Lake

For GIS, we have been exploring the program and practicing creating maps or finding information.  I am very excited to learn how to use GIS more and how it can help with my research.

Sense of Place seminar began with a boat tour of Raystown Lake, which included the basic science and history facts of the area.  Who knew you could have a lecture on a boat?  We also discussed our research projects for the semester.  I am not sure what I am exactly studying yet, but I will be researching an acid mine drainage site.

The first two weeks, we did not have anything on Wednesdays because we do not have our research projects established yet.  My professor said, “Either make it a very productive day or a really good day.”  I did a combination of both; I did some homework in the morning and spent the afternoon kayaking on the lake with some classmates.

Photo Aug 29, 2 59 11 PM

Nature photography is a lot of terminology and learning the basic concepts of how to take a good picture.  It is particularly difficult to take pictures of wildlife because of their movements so we have learned a lot of specialized techniques so far.  Our first project was a picture of a wildflower. I am looking forward to improving my skills.

Aquatic Ecology has been an introduction to ecology and learning the applications of these concepts in aquatic ecosystems.  This course is unique because it is taught by Dr. Lane Loya from Saint Francis University.

 

One afternoon, we had a mini Lake Symposium to listen to researchers discuss the previous studies on Raystown Lake and the potential issues for the future.  The presenters included a park ranger from the US Army Corps of Engineers, and from Juniata, Dr. Sharon Yohn and Dr. Chuck Yohn.  It is interesting to learn about an ecosystem in which you live and about the different issues that have to be monitored.

I also enjoyed kayaking and going on a firework cruise on the lake with my mom on Labor Day weekend.

From September 10th to 14th, our class at the field station travelled to the Finger Lakes region of New York to study lakes and streams.  We stayed at the Cornell Biological Field Station and the USGS Lake Ontario Biological Station.  On the way home, we stopped at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Our Limnology and Aquatic Ecology professors joined us too, which provided an immersive experience to apply everything we have learned and will learn this semester.

 

I wanted to end this post with some fun from Juniata’s traditions, Lobsterfest (Yes, sometimes I actually go back to campus.)  It is an opportunity for students to sign up for clubs and enjoy delicious lobster on the quad.

Letourneau_Lobster

Another tradition at Juniata is Mountain Day.  One day in the fall, classes are canceled, and the school provides buses to take everyone to Seven Points Recreation Area on Raystown Lake for a day of outdoor fun including a picnic lunch, kayaking, slip and slide, inflatables, tug-of-war, and more.  However, no one knows in advance when it is going be.  As the Juniata website states, “trying to guess the date of Mountain Day is one of the most popular topics of conversation among the students and faculty in the weeks leading up to the event”.  It really is.  Students and professors will place bets when they think it will be and students will stay up all night if they think it might be the next day.

Luckily, Mountain Day didn’t happen while we were in NY, so we were able to sail the research boat across the lake to join in on the festivities!

 

Here’s to more adventures and beautiful sunsets on the lake.

Letourneau_Sunset

My last Mountain Day

No one ever thinks they want to be woken up by airhorns at 4 am, but trust me, you do.

Mountain Day is one of those glorious Juniata traditions where I never really feel like I can truly explain it to someone.

“Well, on a surprise day every year, all of our classes/responsibilities are cancelled. They wake us up at the crack of dawn to tell us that (usually with airhorns and loud yelling), and then once we all do get up, we pile into cars and go out to the lake for an entire day.

I’m usually met with a classic, “Do you even go to a real school?” The answer is yes, it’s just a great one.

Traditions within traditions! The annual Mountain Day tug-of-war.

Traditions within traditions! The annual Mountain Day tug-of-war. P.C. Candice Hersh

As a senior, this Mountain Day was bittersweet. While I was swimming and running and eating, I couldn’t help but have this little voice in the back of my head saying, “this is the last one.” However, that didn’t stop the festivities on what I believe to be is my best Mountain Day yet. The day was warm, the sun was shining (which seems to be a rarity this fall), and all of my friends were there. That’s definitely my favorite thing about Mountain Day – the fact that everyone can (and usually does) participate. Sure, we can plan lake days for ourselves, but usually someone has an essay or a test. On Mountain Day, we’re all free to race to the lake and spend the day in the sun without the worry of what is due tomorrow.

I returned home from Mountain Day sore, covered in lake water and sand, a little sunburnt (don’t tell my mom), and happy.

Posing for our yearly Mountain Day picture!

Posing for our yearly Mountain Day picture!

Who knows what my Mountain Day will bring next year. Maybe I’ll be teaching kids about watersheds. Maybe I’ll be writing for a journal. Maybe I’ll be in grad school. Who knows, maybe I’ll even find the time to escape down to a lake for the day. Whatever it brings and wherever I am, I’ll always have Mountain Day with me. It’s a Juniata tradition for life.

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