I’ve had many useful classes and engaging experiences throughout my time at Clemson, however none have truly captivated me the way that my involvement in the Conservation of Marine Resources creative inquiry has. Between field work in the Florida Keys, creating posters and presenting them at various conferences, and the friendships I have throughout the year, this one class has been the highlight of my Clemson experience.
For me the choice to go to Clemson was an easy one. I grew up loving the school and knew from the first time I thought about college that I was going to go here. However, there was one set-back that was hard for me to overlook. I knew that one day I wanted to work on the ocean, but Clemson did not have a degree in marine biology, and was also one of the furthest schools in the state of South Carolina from the coast. My freshman year I often struggled with if I had made the right decision to make Clemson my home. It was not until I met Kylie and Dr. Childress that I knew I had. And now through this creative inquiry, I’ve gotten more hands-on experience than I probably could have anywhere else.
Throughout this semester we have all been working hard to develop our projects and create posters that help to explain the work that we do as well as the importance that it holds. I personally worked with my amazing partner Taylor to better understand the influence of macroalgae on coral growth. To do this we mainly worked with two programs: CPCe and Image J. In working with these programs we learned how to identify different common species seen on the reef, from red rope sponge to octocorals. When it finally came time to put our data into poster form, we worked closely with Dr. Childress and Kylie who gave us hands-on statistical training.
As many who work in research know, it sometimes gets a bit dull looking at a computer screen, working on data. But it is completely worth it when you finally put something together that matters. I felt so proud of everything Taylor and I had accomplished when I first saw our printed poster. But it was not until we presented it at CBASS and FOCI that I really understood how important it was. Seeing everyone who presented at these conferences and how the things that they did were helping to impact Clemson and society showed me how important our creative inquiry program is. It was also an incredible experience to put our poster up at SEEC in Athens where students from Florida State, Auburn and other large universities were presenting their research.
While the conferences and lab work are a large part of what has made my experience in this lab a once-in-a-lifetime one, there a few others that can not be left out. One of the absolute best things about working in this creative inquiry is the field research. Over spring break Kylie, Daniel, Lauren, and I packed up our things and drove down the Florida Keys for the week. During our time there we logged over fourteen dives, saw quite a few sharks (my favorite animal), speared my first lionfish, had the best dive of my life and made memories that none of us will ever forget. There is truly nothing like spending the entire day on the reef observing parrotfish and getting to see why what you are doing is so important.
Coming back home after those trips to the Keys is always hard, but it gets a lot easier when you walk into lab a few days later and see some of the best people you’ve ever met laughing and joking together. That is the last and probably most important reason why I love this creative inquiry the way that I do. The friendships and bonds that we have all made in our lab extend to our personal lives as well. Its because of this one class that I have been able to understand what the Clemson family is truly about.
Looking back now, I would never take back my decision to enroll here at Clemson. I am so thankful for this program as well as Dr. Childress, Kylie, and my friends in the lab. This was the best decision I have ever made and I would not change it for the world!