A BIG THANK YOU to Julie Platner for her wonderful work on my research and heritage. I am very grateful for such an opportunity. Too bad this happened right after my wrist surgery that I couldn’t show more gator wrangling action… maybe another time. Here is the link to the small documentary!
Every time I tell people the animal I research, I always get a look of “Are you crazy?” Part of me thinks yes, as the majority of society wouldn’t dare do what I or other crocodilian researchers do. It is hard to describe the love and passion sometimes I have for my research and crocodiles. Well, now there is something else I am going to have problems describing to people- partying it up in Salvador, Brasil for probably one of the biggest parties in the world- CARNIVAL!!!! I was given an amazing opportunity to head down to Bahia and participate in a multi-day party with thousands-millions of people from all over the world. I worked my ass off before heading out to Brasil, so come the opportunity to party I could have fun without any worries of school. “Work hard, play hard”- a motto I’ve lived since I could remember. And yes, I played hard at Carnival.
I knew Carnival was going to be swarming with people, but the first day there I was not expecting THAT many people. It was an endless sea of people partying, some dressed in costume, but majority of people just in street clothes. Although crowded, the energy of the people was amazing! Everyone was all about living life and having a good time, dancing and drinking. Being a grad student, this type of energy was absolutely refreshing- I forgot what stress was and joined in on the amazing energy of the Brasilians.
My experience was elevated by having the opportunity in getting access to one of the camarote on the route (VIP). Unlimited food and drink, and dance floor with killer music, which meant endless whiskey and dancing until the wee hours of the morning. I couldn’t have dreamed for this, and being with the people I was with, Carnival was turning into immediately one of the best experiences of my life!
The routine lasted a couple of days- party all night, sleep pretty much in the day, get ready and go party. Of course I partied in the streets with everyone else, dancing away behind these moving music stages, not realizing that you end up dancing a couple of miles on the ocean front street. By the time you get home, you are exhausted and crash.
I really don’t know how else to describe Carnival as so much happened. All I know is if anyone has the opportunity to go, GO!!! It’s something worthy to do at least once in your lifetime.
And now as I go back to the LA, I actually feel refreshed and so ready to get back to work. Things mini-vacations are good for my brain and to re-analyze my research, how I want to take it. It helps me to get more creative with what I do. Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if graduate programs forced their grad students to take vacations- what a wonderful world that would be!!!!
Getting pushed out of my comfort zone, and what I see at the other end of this dark tunnel is light… I could almost here a whisper of someone saying “she’s crowning!!!” No, I’m not talking about my birth, and no I’m not talking about giving birth. The only way to describe one of my “a-ha” moments about ecological mathematical modeling utilizing statistical programs was to use the metaphor of birth. I’d been in a place of comfort for so long about some of my research, yet knew there was something much more beyond the “cozy sack” of data that I had. Then one day I was introduced into disease mathematical modeling- it was absolutely stimulating to me as oxytocin, or the “hormone of love and labor contraction.” As I started to become more familiar with modeling and figuring out the awesome models I could possibly create with my alligator-parasite data, it was like their was an increase of oxytocin ultimately leading to an increase of excitement (like contractions…).
I decided to take a ecological mathematical modeling class to help guide me through the process of creating a model with my
alligator-parasite data. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy- it included math which had become a sworn enemy for years, and learning the language of computer statistical programs. The first couple of weeks were tough- my oxytocin/adrenaline levels decreased due to frustration, obviously making the experience long, tough and lingering. However, while the rest of the US was glued to their TVs watching Superbowl, I was glued to my computer trying to figure out some mathematical problem sets. Finally, an epiphany came- I began understanding the language of math and how to use software to graph the concepts of ecological modeling, how ecosystems work! My adrenaline shot up and I saw the light!!!!!!! However, I am still no expert or extremely comfortable with the whole process, thus why I told some fellow grad students, “It’s as if I’m just crowning from the birth canal of mathematical modeling!” (And now you all know one of my nerd moments). Maybe by the end of the quarter I will have a feeling from endorphins, but right now I’m just happy to finally peak my head into the world among math modelers!
I think I can speak for most (if not all) grad students that our graduate career is full of these moments and feelings: stupidity, excitement, frustration, euphoria, confidence! It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster, but damn it feels good when we finally nail something! Waiting for the day someone comes up to me and says, “Marisa, you can now call yourself a proficient mathematical modeler, what are you going to do now?” A possible response, “I’m going to Disneyland…then sipping a damn good whiskey!”