Post 9: Field Research Reflections

This project was at times very challenging but also very rewarding. It pushed me to think beyond just reading and analysing others’ research and design but how to implement my own design in a useful, yet relatively simplistic manner. I did encounter many challenges. My biggest challenge was determining how many variables I truly had to consider. At first, I believed that because I was working in such a small area, I would not have to consider significant soil differences, temperature, water, and other abiotic variance so I believed that wind, which was my primary focus for differences, would be the independent variable. I realize now though, after reading more literature, specifically about microclimates, that this may not be the case. Considering my study area and after many observations, I do believe that wind is likely the major contributor to the patterns I observed, but I cannot rule out other potential variances that may be contributing to the patterns to a lesser extent because I did not measure them. Basically, from my observations, I narrowed down my explanations to one specific theory, but through literature exploration, found that I returned basically full circle to all the original potential explanations but I had confirmed that the pattern I witnessed was truly a pattern.

Throughout this study, I did alter my design to include a few more measurements and considered other possibilities and after collecting data. I found further ways my design could have been improved or altered but at that point, it was too late. I think one of the biggest things I could have altered or tried to measure more precisely is the variance of the wind disturbance. Given the limited time and resources available, I do not think I could have improved it much. I had known that my wind measurements were a potential flaw, but I figured including some measurement was better as opposed to solely observations. The literature I found on wind disturbance and wind patterns revealed to me the extent of the variance and the wind patterns I was previously unaware of and revealed further flaws to my design along with ways I could have changed how I took my wind measurements to improve what I was able to measure.

As far as my perspective on ecological theory, I have found that the more I consider a pattern or phenomena, the more questions I have. If I come to a conclusion or at least a theory about one aspect of my research, I am left with more questions about another possibility or considering something I had previously ruled out but in a new way. I believe this has given me a new appreciation for those researchers who have come up with conclusions about ecosystems as a whole and have the research to back the conclusion. The steps between having an idea to actually coming up with something more concrete with the data and research are extensive in both time and effort. In the studies I was looking at, often the data included years of research to document the ecosystem or patterns over time, many complex databases, and sources for other data to add or compare. This makes sense given the topics I was considering but again determines how extensive some of the processes can be and in my case, only left me with more questions and considerations. Although at times I found that frustrating while compiling my paper, I did enjoy that each step and new question further advanced my knowledge and understanding of the ecological processes present allowing me to ask better questions about my study area.

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