Veterinary Medicine: Conservation Medicine
Summer College 2016
Hey there! I'm Alexa, a rising senior at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, California. I have always loved two things: nature and traveling. When the idea of getting to do both at the same time arose with Cornell's Conservation Medicine summer program, I just couldn't resist. My passion for nature has driven me to create and run an environmental club at my school where I have the opportunity to inspire others to care about conservation as much as I do. I've been able to explore different fields of animal care by working at the San Diego Zoo in a program called Zoo Corps, and volunteering at my local humane society. Among other things, I love to read, write, dance, and draw. I can't wait for the exciting rush of college life as I make my way to an amazing summer at Cornell!
I am writing to you today at the very latest time possible so that I can have the opportunity to give you the full realm of everything I have experienced in the last seven days. It really feels like I have been here a month already. There is always something to be done, whether it's studying, hanging out in the residence hall or just exploring campus. It's impossible to be bored at Cornell, even walking around and enjoying the scenery of the campus is one of my favorite things.
Opening day was exciting but the first day was by far the most memorable. Within no time I was with a group of people from all over the country and the world. From England to Romania, Italy and back it is amazing to see how we can have so much in common. The first day of class started off with a rush as I missed my bus and had to walk to class, but thankfully I made it on time. There are guest speakers almost every day and fascinating labs. On the second day we went to one of the old anatomy classrooms to examine different species and skeletons. This lab was really insightful as Dr. Evans shared his collections with us.
We have already done of a host of activities ranging from telemetry, bird watching, snake handling and more. I am continuously amazed at the amount of sheer knowledge being given to us during such a short amount of time; the best part is we actually get to apply this knowledge to the labs, which is something you might miss in a normal classroom environment. The course work is intensive with reading, but there is still plenty of time to stop by the Dairy Bar for a milkshake or catch the bus to the Ithaca Commons.
If this course was merely a summer camp, or even just a class I don't think I would be able to get the full grasp of what I get with this program. There is class from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. with lunch in the middle, but besides that the structure of how you format your day is up to you. I know people here who spend their free time taking walks, or constantly playing poker, youtubing until morning comes, or simply playing soccer on the field. Cornell Summer College gives you the freedom to explore the campus by yourself and still make tons of memories with your friends.
I'm really excited for the next two weeks here at Cornell because if they are anything like the first I know I'm going to have a great time.
I'm not sure if the coursework was more intensive this week or if I was just enjoying it more but either way the second week flew by really fast. I'm pretty adjusted to the environment, inside and outside of the classroom, but that doesn't mean there aren't new experiences every day.
This past week in class we did a variety of labs including reptile management, honeybee conservation, and parasite analysis. Part of the reason why I love this course is because it dives into a broad spectrum of topics from pharmacology to toxicology, giving you a better idea of just how many different fields contribute to conservation medicine. Most of us came into this course with the idea of veterinary work, but it's encouraging to discover the many specialty fields which are as important to saving species.
During the herpetology lab we were able to hold several of the species which were in the lecture, including my favorite, the Western hognose snake. The following day we had lectures on honeybees and then used that information to track honeybee pollination sites. Although I knew about honeybees and the threats they face, it wasn't until this course that I fully understood how honeybees function as a systematic and collective entity in order to provide for the good of the hive. In addition to this, we were given the opportunity to place our hand in the middle of a resting swarm, which if you paid any attention to the lectures, you would know that they won't sting you unless specifically agitated. Last but not least we examined parasites through a microscope in the wet lab at the vet school.
This weekend was fun, but mainly consisted of catching up on work and getting ready for finals. I don't have a final in my course, but many of my friends do. Instead, I have a project with three other classmates which requires us to come up with a recovery plan for an endangered animal or ecosystem. I'm really excited about this because it incorporates everything we've been learning. I did manage to make it out to the Ithaca Farmers Market which was definitely worth the trip, I just wish I had a kitchen to actually cook all the fresh veggies I saw there! We settled on some jam so it was all good. I also went to Buttermilk Falls with my friends which was awesome.
I have mixed feelings about this last week because I feel like I will just get the hang of things when the program ends. I know that it will be just as full and exciting as the last two weeks have been. Not looking forward to saying goodbye Cornell!
There was a moment this summer when I was completely and utterly alone… who am I kidding? It's impossible to be alone at Cornell, everything is welcoming, the trees, the buildings the people. This last week doesn't even compare to the first two. In addition to laser tagging, bus hopping, park stopping and just good old getting lost, this week I worked with three amazing teammates to come up with a recovery plan for our ecosystem. All the hard work throughout the weeks paid off and we had a great presentation! This project really put us in the shoes of a conservationist, having to analyze every detail to come up with an economically and socially practical plan to save an endangered plant and ecosystem. With, in my opinion, the same amount of rigor as studying for a test, you actually get to do research in this project, similar to experiences you might have out in the field. It was a perfect way to incorporate everything we learned throughout the course.
This was the first time that I lived on a university campus and I'm sure that other schools can offer a similar experience. However, I seriously doubt that there is a tighter fit than the one I find myself in with Cornell. In just three weeks I've tried and experienced things I never imagined and I wonder how it will affect me as I continue on in my educational journey. I know it sounds kind of cliché to call it a journey, but if you know me at all, that's the best way to explain it. It is because of this course I have a better idea of what I want to pursue and what it takes to get there.
Going into this course I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to do clinic work and have my own practice, or field work, orientated more towards conservation medicine. I'm so thankful that I was able to take this course because it really made it clear where I'll be best.
I recommend this course to anyone who is adventurous, compassionate and eager to learn. It will definitely expand your horizons and help you discover what you are willing to do to make a difference. I hope this isn't the last I see of Cornell, but I am so fortunate to have had these last few weeks to develop and nurture a passion which has guided me from the beginning. Goodbye Cornell and good luck to all of you interested in becoming a Summer College student!