“Right let’s build a website!” Although I might be misquoting Dagmar a little bit here it’s essentially how the conversation went down.
Website design isn’t really the first thing that comes to mind after recently graduating with a MSc in ecology and biodiversity, right? Although I should add that I did willingly sign up for this so that must be indicative that there is something there? Oh, and there definitely is! Along with being a plant ecologist in training I’m also very in love with the computational and theoretical side of things. This. In turn, naturally lends itself to a lot of coding and programming – and hey that’s what website design is (or so I’ve been told). The other big reason for lobbying for this position was the chance to be involved with a project that is (if you squint) related to the manuscript that some of the PFTC5 members recently submitted. We mentioned it and posted a link to the website – thus it needs to be perfect its part of the product after all!
As (mis)quoted above the mandate for this project was simple, if not broad, make a website for the Plant Functional Traits Courses (PFTC). I would be working alongside Dagmar to design a website that would act as a marketing and information tool for the courses and also create a space that could be used for and by the alumni network. So theoretically the content was there, and it was just a case of us putting it all together in a coherent and navigable manner. The thing is though that aesthetics matter and it was the process of making pretty content that was the most fun!
It’s pretty cool to be at the ‘pointy end’ and that the work that I was producing was inputted directly into the final product and it was more of a team effort between myself and Dagmar as opposed to a leader/student relationship. Oftentimes I would ‘go rogue’ and develop an idea, visual element, present it to Dagmar and (bless her) she would usually just roll with the idea. But it’s not just all about the content creation – I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some of the other team members to help ‘mature’ some of ‘their’ components of the course and help formalize some ideas before they are put onto the website. This usually consists of me arriving in their DM’s like a whirlwind with a whole host of ideas in tow!
You would think given the ‘mildly’ leftfield mandate of this internship (relative to my training) that I wouldn’t have many prior skills to bring to the party but I really leaned on my knowledge working with R as well as the little bit of experience I had setting up my own personal website. Which I think gave me a steppingstone of sorts to develop some of the content that I did. It was also a chance for me to play with some of the other features on R that I’ve always wanted to experiment with (mostly Shiny apps and making pretty tables). On top of that I’ve also learnt a fair bit about html syntax and how to leverage that within R and a healthy dose of lateral thinking and problem solving. I think it was this combination of elements that helped me to develop an automated and dynamic system for some of the components – a system that I am very proud of! I’ll admit I often go onto the website just to admire the product that we have created thus far.
I guess from a goals perspective it was pretty simple – make a website and given the current COVID-19 status being bound to the indoors and my desk made it made for a very doable goal. However, my personal upgrade (and I’m sure Dagmar would agree) was to make the website both fashionable and functional! I love visualizing things (data included) so it’s only natural that this is what I ended up focusing on. Now if that goal is achieved? I’m not sure if I can say that just yet. We are definitely still waiting on approval from some of the higher ups and as with most creative endeavors you always feel like there is just one more thing you can do!
(socially distanced) Cheers,