News & Blog

DEI Summer Scholars Program Reflections by Piper Preuss

Posted by kmyule on July 28, 2023 - 9:54am in Undergraduate Students

At the start of this program there were a lot of things I didn’t know. I didn’t know that frogs don’t have diaphragms like humans, and therefore breathe through their skin and manually draw air into their mouths to push towards their lungs. I didn’t know that locusts don’t start out as locusts, but instead, certain species of grasshoppers become locusts when they are in dense contact with others of the same species, triggering chemical changes in the grasshoppers’ brains. I didn’t know that melons and avocados are actually berries, and common fruits considered to be such, such as raspberries and blackberries, are not technically berries. I didn’t know that moths’ patterns and colorings are made up of scales, or that only female ants, bees, and wasps can sting.

A few different organisms Piper encountered throughout the program

I could go on and on about all of the things I didn’t know at the start of this program. I have never learned so much about so many things. It has sparked new interests, curiosity, and a sense that I have a lot of learning ahead of me. But I didn’t just learn things about insects and plants and animals. I also learned so much about myself, what I’m capable of, and how many options I have in the future in terms of bioscience fields of employment.

I had always thought that I would go into the field of marine conservation, and had been set on it since I was a kid. However, through this amazing program, I have found intense interest in so many different fields. I learned that I love working with vertebrates and mammals, even in the difficult moments where loss of life is required for further scientific research. In these moments, you come to appreciate the life surrounding you and what you can learn from it. You get to challenge yourself on your own preconceived notions of what you are capable of and how beneficial these moments are to progress. It is an invaluable experience I am incredibly grateful to have had.

Piper handling vertebrates in the field

 I never knew how much I could love insects. The first field trip of the program, the light traps swarming with moths, beetles, and just about any other insect you could imagine, was intimidating. Scary, even. But by the end, I was holding those insects, getting up close and personal with a myriad of captivating little creatures. Bringing them back to the collections and getting to study them under microscopes, learn to pin specimens and spread the wings of moths, I had never known just how much there is to see of these tiny, complex species. Even now, I’ve started working as a research technician in this very collection to continue this keep doing so. It’s incredibly rewarding and continues to challenge any preconceived notions of insects every single day. 

Insects in the field and the lab

Like I said, I learned so many things. I learned how to code in R script, how to dissect and preserve small mammal specimens, how to pin and identify insects, how to identify birds by call, and so much more. I never thought I could find so much passion in so many different things at once, and all within six weeks. My point is that not only did I learn so much, but I learned that I am capable of learning and doing so much, and these experiences I just wrote about are only a few out of a multitude of different, captivating moments and opportunitiesI was lucky enough to have in the span of this program. It challenged me in the most welcoming environment, and has left me with a lifetime of curiosity that I will forever be grateful for.

In the field - Pinto Spring