The Wyoming Field Studies program was one of the greatest experiences I have had in my life. Most of the first few weeks were spent learning about the basics of Western ecology and geology and, interestingly, how modern patterns are a reflection of the deep past. Days and nights spent out on the property were not only insightful, but really fun as well. The sparse sagebrush communities initially felt barren in contrast with some of the other destinations like the snowy mountains, but I soon came to love them just as much as or even more than the forested, water-centric environments that I am most familiar with. One of the things I especially looked forward to coming in was gaining experience with techniques that researchers use in the field and, after learning quite a few, we were all given a chance to put them into practice with our independent projects. Following two days of research, we went on the trip around the state where we saw some of the famous wildlife and geological formations of Wyoming around Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. For somebody who has never been to the Western United States, it was the best introduction I could have ever asked for.
Heading back to Pitt in a week, I feel especially ready after my experience. I will be graduating soon, and this program gave me some of the skills I felt necessary going forward. Learning about research methods and gaining insight from the instructors has given me some confidence regarding graduate school and searching for jobs. Presenting my independent project was tough, but it was a comfortable first step into research work. Lastly, I am really thankful for Mandi, Kyle, and Amanda for all of their help throughout the trip. They all played a huge part in making the program so special.