Sunday, July 1, 2007

This summer

While I was in RFC a friend of mine told me about a summer program for ecologists who want to learn more about mathematical modeling and other applications of mathematics to ecology. It's for upper level undergraduates and beginning graduate students so I'm still eligible. Math is one of my weaker areas, but I know that it is important for being a well-rounded and versatile ecologist so this program sounded like a great opportunity for me. I also thought it would be a good way for me to get back into school mode since I've been out for a few years. Best of all, they cover my food, housing, and tuition and provide a small stipend. This is great because I came back from RFC with very little money and aside from selling things on ebay my next paycheck won't be until I start TAing.

I'm really enjoying this program. I've learned heaps about modeling population, community, and ecosystem dynamics. It makes me wish I'd taken a lot more calculus! All of the other students are fun, interesting people. It's a really intense program, so I'm glad they aren't lame or pompous. We have class together for 8 hours each day and then spend our mealtimes and evenings hanging out so we've bonded quite well. I call this the summer camp effect. When you spend almost every waking hour with the same people you get to know them well and quickly.

This program really is like nerd camp for adults. We spend all day in classrooms in front of computers challenging our brains with partial differential equations, linear algebra, Lotka-Volterra equations, Mathematica code, functional responses, R errors in maximum likelihood analysis, and food chain modeling. We work hard and play hard. After class we play volleyball, soccer or ultimate frisbee, go canoeing, running, or just read books and watch movies. This is summer camp without the counselors.

My goal for this summer is to improve my comprehension of theoretical ecology papers and not descend into mathphobia when I see equations.

Now that I feel like I'm pretty well caught up on the things I've wanted to post to the blog I'll try to post more often.

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