Written by Amanda Franklin, Biology Ph.D. Candidate
The dogwoods are flowering, there are tulips in the garden, and Tufts campus is becoming pretty empty: it’s summer break! It might not be summer break like in undergrad (several months of part time work and lying on the beach for me), but it does mean fewer commitments. I am no longer a teaching assistant, I don’t have lab meetings, and I don’t have a department seminar. So much more time for research, travel, and conferences!
And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing this summer.
In a few weeks, my family is visiting from Australia. We’re going to travel around some of the US national parks. Previously we’ve been to a bunch on the west coast, so this time we are heading to the Midwest and Northwest. It’ll be my first time in this region so I’m super excited not only for the national parks, but also to see a new part of the country. It’s great having the opportunity to see the US whilst living here!
My brother and I are going to fly into Denver, quickly check out the Rockies and then drive up to Rapid City, South Dakota to meet my parents. Many people have looked at me like I have no clue what I’m doing when I mention we’re going to South Dakota. But in South Dakota, there is The Badlands National Park, Black Hills National Forest and Mount Rushmore. From here we head to Grand Tetons NP and Yellowstone NP. I really hope we see some bison there and maybe, if we are really lucky, some wolves. We then take an 8-hour drive to Glacier National Park, which will still have a lot of snow and ice around, before finishing off in Banff National Park in Canada. It’s going to be a fantastic trip!
Summer is also when a lot of academic conferences are held. One of my favorite conferences is ISBE – International Society for Behavioural Ecology. It is held every second year in different places around the world. This July/August, it will be in Exeter in the UK. I am really lucky because I have secured funds from the Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences as well as ISBE to help cover the costs of attending this conference. It is going to be really beneficial for me to meet people in my field and hear about the latest research. I’m also hoping I can fit in a visit to Harry Potter Studios in London!
The last, and most important, benefit of summer is the extra time I have to do research! I can spend the days conducting experiments rather than fitting experiments in around my other commitments. This summer I am starting two new experiments, so the extra time is really beneficial to get them up and running. One project will be investigating whether changes in environmental conditions affects stomatopod (mantis shrimp) communication. Stomatopods are very visual, so any changes that affect the light environment could reduce the effectiveness of visual signals. The second involves recording stomatopod punch force. Stomatopods can punch extremely hard (they have been known to break aquarium glass) and I’m investigating whether they signal their strength before punching. The biology department at Tufts is really broad, so I have the opportunity to work with the Tytell lab to complete this project. They are experts in biomechanics, so it’ll be great to collaborate and learn from them.
Summer is a great time of year for a grad student. The extra time for the activities mentioned above is really wonderful. But in addition to that, events start popping up left, right, and center. Porchfest in Somerville, free jazz on the Harbor Islands, and outdoor craft and farmer’s markets all over. Everyone loves to get out and about after the winter. Summer in Boston really is my favorite time of year!