Experiential Education Symposium at York University

I had the wonderful opportunity to make a poster and present my research today at York University’s Experiential Education Symposium. During the event, York University president and vice-chancellor Rhonda Lenton and I discussed my biology research, as well as the many applications it has in the workforce. I am excited and eager to experience the opportunities that lie ahead.

Discussing my research with President and vice-chancellor of York University Rhonda Lenton
Presenting research at the conference. I got the chance to speak to so many different individuals, and am glad to be sharing scientific findings with such a large audience.
My poster on the optimal plant density research work I did during my research practicum with Dr.Christopher Lortie and Jenna Braun. I expanded on this knowledge in my honours thesis and am now searching for the optimal native plant density to outcompete an exotic invader. Restoration ecology in action.
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Completion of Native vs. Exotic Competition

After a 2 month growing and censusing period, followed by a harvesting, drying, and biomass census I have concluded my 200 pot competition series.
During this period, I had obtained a photometer to measure light levels and did two light census for both the overall pot as well as below canopy. I am hoping that these light measures will provide quantifiable insight on the effect light has on growth. I hypothesize that plants receiving ambient light will yield greater mean biomass per species, while those in shade conditions (to mimic shrub presence) will have a greater mean height due to leggy growth.
I wanted to quantify the growth of my plants through several metrics, and therefore chose to obtain both height and leaf measurements for each species from each pot. In order to acquire these measurements, I implemented a new censusing technique for my second and final census. In this census I counted the number of individuals of each separate species there were per pot. Following this, I took the tallest individual of each species, and recorded its height along with the number of leaves. This way, following the harvest and mechanical oven drying period I would be able to compare the biomass of the plant with its height and leaf count. This would allow me to evaluate plant growth using two separate dimensions; plant height along and number of leaves vs. plant biomass.

After using a mechanical drying oven set to 62 degrees Fahrenheit for 48 hours, I used a precision scale to obtain the biomass of each plant.

The experiment planning, seed counting, pot filling, plant censusing, harvesting, and biomass analysis processing were extensive processes. I am extraordinarily grateful to Dr. Christopher Lortie, Dr.Jacob Lucero, Masters graduate Jenna Braun, research practicum student Anuja, and Economics and Finance student Denis Karasik for their time, efforts, and immense assistance with running this experiment.

Statistical analyses for all of the results are still in work, and I am eager to see the conclusion my experiment comes to

Hours of biomass censusing in one photos

All the plants before the harvest

A flower from the beautiful Phacelia tanacetifolia

Plantago insularis also grew flowers

Give what you can

The holidays are right around the corner, and each year I try to give back by whatever means I can. I am a student, so money is usually not an option. Fortunately for me and for many others in the same situtation, you can give back to the community in many ways that will not affect your wallet and will make a big differences. Here are some ideas:

  1. Donate blood
    When you donate blood, you give three components; plasma, platlettes and red blood cells. These components are separated and are donated to 3 different people. Essentially you are saving 3 lives from one donation!
  2. Donate clothes
    Your old clothes can provide someone with both physical warmth as well as a new wardrobe for someone else. Make sure to do some research on where you are donating and ensure that it is a company that gives your donations to those in need.
  3. Volunteer at a food bank
    Food banks have a high demand during the holidays and are always in need of people to assist, whether it be sorting food or handing it out. You can feed those in need even if you yourself can’t afford to supply the food.

If you do have the financial ability to donate money, make sure to check where your money is going and how much of it is donated to the organization. A quick way to find good charities  to give to is to search up “best charities” and see what percentage of your donating is given to the cause (some useful links https://www.givewell.org/charities/top-charities or https://charity.lovetoknow.com/What_Percentage_of_Donations_Go_to_Charity)

This holiday you can make change by closing to give back in a way that makes impact while also providing you with new experience. Try something new!

Time Budgets

I’m often asked how I manage to balance everything going on in my life. For context, I currently work 3 jobs, run 2 clubs (a non-profit with 1200 members  as well as my University’s club for Canadian Blood Services), am enrolled in 4 courses and conducting an honours thesis project. I still spend time with my family and friends, I go to the gym 3X a week (the winter snacks are hitting hard), I run a baking blog on instagram, I read for fun, and I run this blog here. How do I make time for all of this? Time budgets.

I didn’t always manage my schedule well. In fact, until my 3rd year of university I didn’t manage my time well at all. The transition from high school to university was tough. From teachers giving daily updates to professors expecting you to manage your own calendar was rough- but it taught me to learn how to schedule my own life. Let me explain what I mean by time budgeting. Every activity or event I have, I set myself a certain amount of time to complete it, after which I must move on to my next activity. The activities that I know will take me more time I budget more time than I expect, and budget less time for smaller tasks (ex. sending an email or posting a blog update). My calendar is my best friend, and I use it for almost everything I do. This way my mind can focus on the activity at hand rather than at trying to remember everything I have to do.

Time budgeting allows you to integrate more in to your life, while lowering your procrastination. Try it out for yourself and see the difference!

Blood drive at York University

Canadian Blood Services is hosting a blood drive at York University on November 27th, 28th, 29th and 20th. As the Vice president of Canadian Blood Services and One Match at York University, I am always seeking ways to involve students and faculty in our blood donations and stem cell swabbing events. For students on a budget, donating money to charities and organizations is often not rational; blood donation and stem cell swabbing is a way one can give back and potentially save lives. Do you know how much blood is needed to save a life? Check below.




Interviewed for the York University blog! (link below)

I had the fantastic opportunity to be interviewed and put under the club spotlight by the YUBlog about one of my clubs! In this interview I discuss how I got involved in running a non-profit in the form of one of the biggest clubs on campus, our role in encouraging healthy and active living, and the many opportunities we provide for students to get involved.

Link to the full article: http://yublog.students.yorku.ca/blog/2018/04/24/club-spotlight-meatless-monday/

Invasive species versus Californian Natives Competition Trial Update – Census 2

I want my final paper to be useful for and applicable to restoration ecology.  This led me to inquire what data I should collect for my second census. My germination rates are up, and all four species are present, so would relying on number of individuals and biomass of each species per pot be enough data? I decided that since I am using light as a limiting factor I must include height in my data; the plants may have somewhat similar biomass, but if it is due to leggy growth in the shaded pots then it will be important to note that although biomass was similar resource allocation was not equal. Are great amounts of leggy, weak, and nutrient deficient plants with few leaves better for ecosystems then having fewer shorter but thicker, more leafy plants?  I measured the number of individuals per species per pot, alongside with the height and number of leaves the tallest member of each species had per pot. I have yet to analyze these numbers, but did notice trends when doing the census!

Side note: I conducted a germination experiment in the greenhouse prior to using these seeds, and have let them grow out. My Phacelia tanacetifolia is growing a beautiful flower!

Invasive species versus Californian Natives Competition Trial Update – The Purpose

Salvia columbariae, Phacelia tanacetifolia, and Plantago insularis are key phytometers (plants that indicate ecosystem conditions) in the San Joaquin Desert of California. As the highly invasive exotic Bromus madritensis colonizes in this non-native environment it lacks the environmental suppressors and competitors it faces in its native habitat. This leads to native Californian desert ecosystems to shift to a new model where native plants are excluded due to competitive disadvantages. decreases in native biodiversity are directly correlated to the health of an ecosystem, ecosystem services, resiliency to climate change, as well as the resources and for these reasons, identifying methods of restoration ecology is crucial.

Using my 3 factor (ambient light vs shaded conditions, low vs high B.madritensisdensity, native seeds at 6 levels of density (0,3,6,9,15, or 30 natives)) greenhouse competition trials I aim to identify what density of native species must present in a pot with a surface area of 153cm2  to outcompete an exotic one.I have previously run an experiment to identify optimal density in pots of the same surface area using each of the native species in monoculture, implementing the same light versus shade conditions with a total of 365 replicates. I will assess if I am able to compare these differences in optimal monoculture mix density to a polyculture mix with invader presence. If my data finds an optimal density using these methods, I hope to further my research and apply my findings to population ecology by estimating necessary population metrics required to apply this to ecosystem for large scale restoration and contribute it towards field work.

My experiment currently contains 200 pots, 100 of which are shaded by a bamboo structure I suspended. Germination has begun, yet it is still difficult to differentiate among species this early on. As predicted, the shaded individuals have demonstrated leggy growth as they reach towards the light source, yet there seems to be leaf production in possibly higher concentrations in the shaded pots than the ones experiencing ambient light. It appears that the shaded pots have a higher germination and growth rate (measured by number of individuals and number of leaves per pot). Is it possible that the shade-preferring B.madritensis is facilitating growth through positive density dependence? Am I witnessing an Allee effect in the form of environmental conditioning? Or is the answer as simple as light levels in the shaded conditions being sufficient for the natives as well as B.madritensis? Using the metrics of germination of species per pot as well as leaves per species and finally above ground biomass at the end of my experiment I will continually assess success through the different factors and levels I have designed and implemented in my experiment and hope to achieve a successful conclusion.