Friday, August 15, 2014

What's the best approach to buying textbooks?

Can you believe you’re a mere week away from classes starting? I’m sure it feels like you were making your college decision just yesterday. By the way, congrats on picking the best school!

You have gone through a stressful, yet exciting past couple of months. You’ve made decisions such as choosing your college, finding a roommate and attending summer orientation. You’re now a week away from college and besides moving in (that’s the fun stuff) you have one final stress: textbooks.

Welcome to a new world of buying your own textbooks!

... but don’t worry, they’re much nicer than those flimsy, torn up books in high school that date back to the early 90’s. As you anticipated, your textbooks come at an inevitable cost, sometimes higher than expected. You’re not alone. It seems like we all spend a little too much than we would like on books each semester but I promise it hurts your wallet a little less when they’re well worth it.

If you’re unsure of how you want to go about book buying for the semester, you can always attend the first week of classes to get a feel for which books you will definitely need. Professors are very honest and open about whether the book is an absolute necessity or not. My best advice would be to take it from there and decide based on your study habits.

You won’t be forced to have your book in hand on the first day or even in the first week, during which time students are still dropping and picking up classes. You will usually break them out by the second, sometimes third week of class. I personally bought every book the first semester in fear of what was to come and there were some I never opened, and I did just fine!

Most professors put a considerable amount of their exam material on their PowerPoint slides so make sure to attend all your classes, but that’s another story. If you would like to purchase all your books regardless, go for it, do whatever works best for you. You will all have a good grip on this after the first semester, guaranteed.

So after you decide what books you need, where do you get them?

I have bought my books from a variety of sources whether it was Amazon, Chegg or the University Store. Each has their ups and downs. Amazon and Chegg are great ways to get your textbooks and you can buy or rent from both. They are convenient and can be rush ordered, however you cannot forget to return rentals at the end of the semester. Chegg is even nice enough to call and leave an automated reminder on your cell phone. Depending on the book, you may have a little more difficulty finding it on this site as they are not related to Bloomsburg University, however I have gotten lucky so far!

The University Store is guaranteed to have all your textbook needs!

However, depending on how many books they have in stock and the number of students purchasing them, you can find yourself on a waiting list if you wait too long to purchase the book. I have been put on various waiting lists, and they are very efficient and the bookstore will email you as soon as your book is ready. In the meantime, meet a new classmate and ask to borrow theirs — making new friends is always great!

Also keep in mind that depending on your major and classes, some books will only be available to you at the University Store, such as a lab manual written by your professor. Like I said, don’t fear, you’ll get the hang of this pretty quickly.

The final aspect of buying textbooks — do you buy new, used or just rent it? 

This fully depends on what you’re trying to spend and what’s available. Buying new is almost always an option, but I promise those used books with a scratch or two have the same content inside. You can save up to half of the price by buying used and you can still sell it back at the end of the semester.

Rentals are a different story. These are even cheaper, however they must be returned at the end of the semester. I rent books if I’m running short on money at the textbook buying time, and it’s extremely helpful.

But how does returning those new and used books you bought work? 

When you buy a book from the University Store, you have the option of selling them to the bookstore or you can sell to a kiosk in town, such as Belltower. They are set up in various places that buy books back at competitive costs. It’s hard to say which is more profitable (for you) in the end, because it varies between books.

Unfortunately, sometimes a newer edition of your textbook comes out leaving yours worthless to these buyers. Always try multiple places to make sure you’re getting the best price possible. If you find you can’t get money at either store, you can always go on the Bloomsburg Class of 2018 Facebook page and see if any of your classmates need it. New editions usually don’t vary that much from the one before, and most professors won’t mind if you use it. I have also done this before, and it helps both you and your classmates out immensely.

Can you believe all these difficult decisions are almost over and you are soon finally going to be a college student? Enjoy this time in your life it goes too fast. I am embarking on my senior year and remember being in all of your shoes. Make smart decisions while you’re here, have fun and make the best of this life changing experience.

— Sierra Kern, Class of 2015 #HuskyLife

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Chemistry comes into focus as CO2 research draws to a close

Carbon dioxide is often considered a by-product of fossil fuel consumption — and not a useful one, either. But what if carbon dioxide could be turned into something useful or even an energy source? Jocelyn Legere, a Bloomsburg University student, is working on a project at Yale University this summer to do just that.

June 30 to July 4 —   More work in the Lab. I am getting a lot of results; but it’s getting close to the end of the program, so I’m trying to get as much data as possible to present  at the Leadership Alliance Symposium at the end of my time at Yale.

July 7 to July 11 —   This is my second to last week in the lab, so it’s crunch time! Still getting a lot of results and troubling shooting to make the set-up the best it can be. Starting looking more closely at the chemistry this week, which was really cool! So sad that it is almost over but most of my 20-page paper is written!

I have learned so much from this program. I have expanded my knowledge in inorganic catalysis and got a “taste” of what graduate school will be like. I have also learned a lot about Yale University and the opportunities they are able to give their students.

The chemistry program at Bloomsburg University has really prepared me for the research I conducted at Yale this past summer, as well as the research I did with Dr. Eric Hawrelak last summer. It gave me the ability to jump the learning curve and get started on the research right away having learned all the techniques, procedure, and safety at Bloomsburg.

This summer really showed me that I have the ability and know-how to conduct research and contribute to a project. It’s been a very busy but exciting summer. Thank you everyone for tuning in and following me through this summer.

I really appreciate your support. Happy Summer!
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Guess this is what graduate school will be like

Carbon dioxide is often considered a by-product of fossil fuel consumption — and not a useful one, either. But what if carbon dioxide could be turned into something useful or even an energy source? Jocelyn Legere, a Bloomsburg University student, is working on a project at Yale University this summer to do just that.

June 18 to June 20 —  This week I made my catalyst from scratch for the first time. It was very intense and technical, but I managed to make the correct catalyst! It was a long and work-filled week but satisfying that I correctly made it.

Otherwise, it was a fairly uneventful week other than being in the lab for long hours of the day. I guess this is what grad school will be like, bring it on!

June 23 to June 27 —  Abstracts, presentations, progress reports are all due soon, so I am trying to get as much as possible done as early as possible. It is supposed to be beautiful outside this weekend and would like to have nothing to do but sit in the sun and read!

I am almost done with most of the assignments that are due in the weeks to come, but a daunting 20-page research paper still lingers over my head … I am officially half way done with the program and luckily my research is working out well and I am able to get results. The time has really been flying.
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Nicaragua captured me in a way I never imagined

I was looking up at the steep, treacherous hill in a series of uphill ledges that lead us up to the waterfall, a tourist attraction on Ometepe, remembering how on the first day when we hiked up the same path to see the capuchins, I felt like crying and keeling over while simultaneously wondering what I had gotten myself into.

I was looking up at that same trail on my last day, wondering if I would be able to make it up all the way this time.

Spoiler alert: I did, and with an ease that still surprises me to this very moment. That trail is an extraordinary representation of this entire trip — I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but with perseverance and a little bit of hope, I found a stronger version of myself at the end of an incredible journey.

That was how we spent our last day on the island of Ometepe, hiking up to the waterfall that we were only able to make it half way up the trail on our first day. Earlier that morning, we presented the research of our final projects in the format of a 10 minute long presentation for the rest of the class. One thing I can honestly say I thank my undergrad experience at Bloomsburg for was the practice I've gained in giving presentations.

Last semester I had four presentations in a period of two weeks, and while I was wondering to myself how I could've possibly managed that type of luck as a second semester senior, I'm also thrilled to have been able to go through my findings with ease in a new setting.

I had mentioned previously that I was interested in the ecological role of the prehensile tail in mantled howler monkeys, or Alouatta palliata, if you're into taxonomy, and after collecting 25 hours worth of data for my final paper I was happy to say that I was able to support my hypothesis.

Out of all the behaviors the primates used their tails for, feeding/foraging was the highest percentage. It's definitely possible that their tails evolved due to high feeding competition, and in the future adding on to that 25 hours of data would help strengthen that hypothesis.

At the beginning of the course my professor, Dr. Bolt, said by the end of this experience we would all be skilled field workers in her eyes. I don't know how much credit I'm allowed to give myself here, but me and the field had some ups and downs for sure.

I've been bitten by mosquitoes to the point where I'm sure I was one, single itchy lump, been pelted with giant grasshoppers that fall out of the trees when the wind blows, nearly assassinated by a scorpion, ran into the barbed wire fence that surrounds the forest on multiple occasions, sweated through all my deodorant (didn't think that was humanly possible) sun burned close to the equator with no aloe vera (yikes) and after hiking six miles up hill everyday just to get to and from the forest, I was sure my calves were going to commit mutiny on me.

But I wouldn't take back a single second of it. This experience showed me everything I was capable of and more, because I think myself and every other student with me surpassed all of our expectations of how this trip would better us for the future.

Fast forward to my last day in the country of Nicaragua. One by one as we all began to dwindle to make our different flights, I watched each of my classmates leave with a big hug, and a pang of sadness in my chest. Just a few hours earlier we were all together, as we had been 24/7 for the past month, and I looked around the airport in Managua alone realizing I was right back where I started.

Physically speaking that is, because the person I was when I landed weeks before is nowhere close to the person I am now.

There was a moment I looked around and realized that I don't know what force brought me to this place, but there's a piece of my heart that will always be tucked away on the island of Ometepe.

So cliche right?

But it's cliche for a reason — it's true. Nicaragua has captured me in a way I never imagined, and as my first home away from home, I think I'll always have the urge to better the country in any way I can. I knew I'd probably enjoy my time abroad in Nicaragua, but I never expected to feel the strong sense of desire I have to return.

Thinking about going abroad? Do it. You'll never regret it, that much I can promise you. I hope anyone who took the time to read this takes away that much from me.

Sometimes in life places will call your name and you'll have no idea why, and memories and moments will capture your heart in a way you never imagined possible. It may be far from home, and it'll be scary, and so much will be unexpected up until the moment everything materializes. You'll be nervous and excited all at the same time, and you'll have to make the decision of whether or not you want to answer that call that's desperately trying to reach you.

From me to you, I sincerely hope you do. All the best,
#BUAbroad #HuskyUnleashed

Friday, June 20, 2014

Snake Den Group Earthwork … and Goodbyes

The last few days in Ohio were possibly my favorites among the entire field experience. A few of the fieldschool students were relocated and assigned to work at Snake Den (and I was among that group), while the remaining students stayed to complete excavations at our main site – the Balthaser Home Site.

(DeeAnne Wymer) - The Snake Den earthwork which is located a few miles north of the Balthaser site and sits on a high plateau overlooking the valley may have been the ceremonial center for our people who had lived at the Balthaser site homestead some 1,800 years ago. The earthwork includes an embankment and ditch outlining the plateau with mounds and other traces of ceremonial activities inside the embankment.

In 1907 a few "archaeologists" excavated the Snake Den Mounds without real proper care of the site. Techniques for digging were not as precise as they are today. In this year, silver nuggets were discovered within one of the mounds and taken off the property without notifying the landowner. To shorten a long historical background surrounding Snake Den, there is only one piece left of silver remaining at the state museum in Columbus, Ohio.

(DeeAnne Wymer) - It looks like this was the only officially noted early exploration of this earthwork and it has remained virtually untouched since that time – protected and cared for by a great local family – the Barrs.

One can only imagine the excitement to be assigned to work at this site. It's been many years since the site has been excavated, properly at that, and to be one of the first students to work on it was a good feeling. The last few days during our time in Ohio we were split into groups to “open units” at this earthwork site to ‘groundtruth’ the results of a new technique now used to ‘see’ below the ground before excavation.

(DeeAnne Wymer) - Dr. Jarrod Burks is the third archaeologist who works with Dr. Pacheco and Bloomsburg’s Dr. Wymer on these Hopewell moundbuilder sites. Dr. Burk’s uses magnetometry which senses slight changes in the magnetic field just below the soil, creating a map of potential features (pits, earthovens, etc.) for us to explore – any disturbed or burned soil, for example, will have a higher magnetic reading.

Our groups were placed in 1m x 1m test pits that showed high readings on Jarrod Burks' magnetometry results. Within 20 centimeters and less than an hour of digging we found a few bladelets and flint ridge flakes typical of the Hopewell culture of 100 B.C. to A.D. 400. This was good news for us as it meant that we were definitely coming across something good.

(DeeAnne Wymer) - This unit had been placed over a mysterious circular ‘blob’ revealed by the new sensing equipment that showed two long rows of large (3 foot in diameter) circular features, lined up almost like an avenue, that went from the center of the earthwork to the south outside the area that had been surveyed for magnetic readings.

After a while of digging we found charcoal and we immediately thought it meant it was a ceremonial fire because of its location and the amount of items we had come across. After we exposed the feature more and more and plan mapped it, it was time to cut into it and see what we could find.

Properly cutting into the feature meant leaving one half untouched so we could see what the feature would look like as a whole (the profile reveals the interior/internal ‘shape’ of the ground disturbance made by these ancient peoples). After much digging (around 60 centimeters into the dirt) we finally realized that we had come across a giant post mold that measured around 90 cm. (nearly 3 feet) in diameter.

What was even more exciting was that it was the biggest one ever found! We were all pretty happy, as by the time the feature had been fully exposed it was our last day out at Snake Den. It felt like we were really part of history because the site remained untouched for so many years. It was truly an honor to be a part of the first team to really have worked on such a site even if it was just for a few days.

(DeeAnne Wymer) - But what also made this special is that the landowners were so interested and so pleased by our work that they want next year’s fieldschool to come back to the site for further exploration.

I cannot think of a better way to have ended my experience in this field school. The last day was backfill day and we all worked together to close down the units and refill our units created by our hard work. It was a bittersweet feeling to leave but I feel as if my time spent in this field school was truly wonderful and worthwhile. I have never felt more confident that Anthropology is what I was meant to do.

Being in a site of around 2,000 years old can be a truly humbling experience. The way people lead their lives, how they function as a society and what is important to them, past or present, is something that I feel will always be important. We are different, and we are alike, and truly understanding the diversities of people and what it is to be human is truly stimulating to me. I learned so much about myself, as well as understanding the field of archaeology and that's all I could have asked of it.

    — Jasmin Velez, is a junior anthropology major.
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

DeeAnne Wymer, professor of anthropology, and a group of Bloomsburg University students hit the road each spring in mid-May to spend four weeks in southern Ohio digging at a Hopewell habitation site. The archeological field school experience enables student teams to rely on new imaging technologies to uncover another living site of the Mound Builders from 2,000 years ago.

Monday, June 16, 2014

When a positive reaction has double benefit

Carbon dioxide is often considered a by-product of fossil fuel consumption — and not a useful one, either. But what if carbon dioxide could be turned into something useful or even an energy source? Jocelyn Legere, a Bloomsburg University student, is working on a project at Yale University this summer to do just that.

Monday, June 9 - Today was the first group meeting. I had to present what I did in the lab last week, which wasn’t much. Mine was pretty much the only reaction that works! That’s not saying much since the two reactions that I did work almost all the time.
Tuesday, June 10 - I had a meeting with the director of the program to check in with how my project is working out. It went really well.

That evening a big group of us went to the planetarium to see a show, and it was really cool! It was a nice break from being in the lab.

Wednesday, June 11 - I learned how to set up the catalyst I will be running for the rest of my time here. It all went well. Fairly uneventful day.

Thursday, June 12 - Came into the lab this morning to find out that the lab was flooded over night! The water from my condenser had flooded the drain, my hood, our lab and the lab below us! NOT GOOD!

But it all cleaned up quickly and no damage was done to anyone’s reactions or equipment.
Did find out later that day that the reaction that I set up worked! Good news! I set up two more reactions to go over night.

Friday, June 13 - Thankfully this morning the lab was not flooded and the problem fixed! Also found out that my reactions worked again! Got to go home early since my reactions worked!

Saturday, June 15 - My boyfriend came to visit me this weekend, so we went to East Rock and saw an aerial view of New Haven.
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

Friday, June 13, 2014

When they're not sleeping, they're eating ... a relatable mentality

The days have begun swiftly molding together as more and more time flies here on the island of Ometepe. Literally, by 6 p.m. it's dark.

Waking up at 4:30 a.m. is no longer as tiring, and sitting in a pile of dirt and leaves for hours whilst staring up and into the lives of our primate friends has become second nature.

Today, it rained on all of us as we attempted to go about our fieldwork, and we made the best of it like the good sports that we are.

As a group, we've become closer than I'd ever imagined, and I already know that these girls will be my friends for life. Our adventures as we explore both the island, as well as our academic pursuits within primatology, have become a truly unique experience all around.

One of the unique aspects of Ometepe is that it is home to ancient petroglyphs, symbolic rock carvings by the island natives which can be seen at various places around the island, one of them being the White Tree Forest. Also home to mantled howlers, the White Tree Forest is about an hour walk from the conservancy, so after a morning of observation we took a trip to see the petroglyphs.

It was a truly humbling experience to not only see, but touch with our own hands rock carvings that are around 3,000 years old. But first, we were able to witness the extraordinary sight of a group of around 25 howlers in one tree all interacting with one another. Between being enveloped in their booming howls and watching them hang, swing, grab, and fight one another, it was hard not to be overwhelmed.

But it was a truly breathtaking insight to what life is like for non-human primates. Throughout the course of our observations we begin to become more personal with the howlers, and although some of our references to them are jokingly anthropomorphic, a lot of what we observe does bear a true resemblance to aspects of human life.

We also got a chance to kayak out to a place called Monkey Island one morning, a home to habituated white-faced capuchin monkeys. It was important to see the behavioral and morphological differences between capuchins and howlers. Howlers are very sedentary and have a very specific behavioral pattern, and by that I mean they sleep, a lot, 65% of the time as a matter of fact.

Capuchins however are much more active and expressive. It was interesting to see the parallel from an evolutionary perspective, not to mention kayaking while throwing bread and fruit at the capuchins was pretty cool, too.

These past few days have consisted of us collecting data for our final projects which has been increasingly more rewarding - being able to employ everything we've learned thus far and conduct real scientific research in all its fulfillment. I can hardly believe how much my time here is quickly dwindling down, mostly because I never thought a unique, foreign place could begin to feel so much like home.

Who knew cold showers could be so refreshing?

I may never be able to look at rice, beans, or plantains the same way again, but that's a small price to pay for the extraordinary experiences I've been afforded by being here. Besides, the coffee is phenomenal. And so are the people, and the places, and primates, even the bugs. Okay, maybe not the bugs. Finding a scorpion in our room one evening wasn't a part of this trip I want to put on the highlight reel, but I could still gush about it forever.

I'm anticipating finishing my data collection over the next few days - my hypothesis for my research is whether or not the use of the prehensile tail in mantled howler monkeys is used primarily in foraging or not and whether it is more frequently used by adult males or females.

Since the presumption is that the evolution of the prehensile tail occurred due to competition and availability of food resources, I'm anxious to see the role it plays in the life of the howlers. When they're not sleeping, they're eating, and I think many people, myself included, can certainly relate to that mentality!

Until next time,
#BUAbroad #HuskyUnleashed