Connor Wilson 1

A. I’m Connor, an undergraduate studying at UC Berkeley. I am fortunate to have grown up in the mountains of Colorado, where through outdoor sports like skiing and hiking I acquired my interest in the environment and its science. Motivated by my enthusiasm for nature, I enjoy learning about diverse fields of biology like paleontology, ecology, and genetics. My research interests lie in combining these fields through theory, using both mathematical and empirical methods.

B. I am an intern in the lab of Brian J. Enquist at the University of Arizona and Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL). Our project studies the effects of climate change on alpine plant communities. The data was collected at RMBL, near Crested Butte, CO, and I participate in the analysis from my home in a different part of Colorado! Hopefully this data will help us asses the compositional and functional changes that our system has accrued through time. I work with a fabulous postdoc, Julia Chacon-Labella, and Brian, the awesome PI.

C. My role on the team is to help analyze the data. I take previously made field observations and clean them on the computer, verifying it can be used in our workflow. I also participate in data analysis, using code to visualize and explore the data.

D. In my past experience, I have mostly worked on paleobiological questions. I was excited to be selected for the internship because it would provide me the opportunity to work in the ecology of extant taxa. I also wanted to sharpen my computational and analytical skills, and this project piqued my interest. After working thus far, I have learned more neontological ecology, and learned I like the alpine study system. I have also learned many practical skills for dealing with data on the computer.

E. Having previous programming experience was definitely one of the most helpful skills to take into the internship. Despite having this experience, I have continued to build on this knowledge, which I am sure will be helpful for my future scientific endeavors. My knowledge from college courses in ecology and evolution enhanced my ability to understand our research on a conceptual level. Actually participating in the research, however, brings a unique perspective and connects you to the subject matter in new and exciting ways.

F. Originally, my internship was to include a field component. I was looking forward to both spending time outside and learning techniques for plant ecology, but the pandemic had other plans. Now I engage with my team virtually, which of course has its downsides, but I am grateful for Brian and Julia’s flexibility. Because of their efforts I still get to do ecology during quarantine, which is amazing.

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  • Vigdis

    I am glad thinbgs worked out so well for you , Connor, despite not being able to travel as planned. Data management is a super important skill and job! By the sound of it you have also been a really useful and valuable and integrated part of the team as well. Well done both on your side and by the supervisors!