“How has the way I understand/communicate my capstone, as summarized in my multiple Madlibs, evolved over this semester or year?”
While this question seems straightforward, my capstone did not have a linear progression from my beginning stages to where I ended up. It was not a direct progression, or something that built off of itself for a long time, but once it did, it was exciting to work on. In the beginning, I was interested in pursuing an entirely different topic, a subject that I still find incredibly interesting to this day and also especially important; the different responses and adaptations of Pacific Island Nation to changing sea levels and storm patterns. While my interests through ENVS have largely revolved around ocean issues and conservation, I initially thought small island developing nations was where I wanted to take my capstone. However, as interesting as the research was, I struggled immensely strategizing how I would answer the framing and focus questions I had spent so long developing. The research continued to lean towards more qualitative work and as someone who likes working with numbers, I found more and more that this was not where I wanted to be heading.
So when I received an email from my advisor telling me that she had stumbled across a massive data set based in the San Francisco Bay about various pollutants and toxins, I was hooked. I spent hours that night rifling through this extensive data set and I knew I needed to completely switch what I had originally set out to explore through this capstone. With this quick change, I had a lot of work to do to catch up. I filled out the Mad Libs again with my new goals in mind, and got to work researching and consulting professors. I looked into many different pollutants, agonized about which one to choose, and why, knowing that each would take me down a different path from the next. Finally, I settled on flame retardants. I found the story of flame retardants found in fish tissue in the San Francisco Bay a compelling one, and I decided to go with it. I think I struggled in these stages knowing what would be too much to take on, or not enough. I kept conjuring these massive ideas and goals and then would have to dive in deeper to cut some pieces out after being advised by a professor or peer. It wouldn’t be long till I would zoom back out in some other way and feel like I could take on much more, only to be told to cut pieces out again.
But as the days went on and the weeks passed by I was able to more comfortably settle on a specific set of analyses I wanted to conduct. A spatial one and a temporal one. The spatial one would look at differing levels of PBDEs across the Bay, and the temporal analysis would look at how these concentrations had changed through time, since testing had begun. At one point I also wanted to include a seasonal analysis, however, the data set usually only had several tests per year, so there was not enough data to make any conclusions regarding seasonal trends. A piece that was cut out. And so I set out on these analyses. For many people, they approached their capstones from the top of the hourglass and then moved into their middle and analyses, but I started in the middle and went outwards. The first things I did were these two analyses before I moved into the top and bottom of the hourglass. And that is how my capstone progressed! Like I said, certainly not linear or regular, however I felt that once I got the ball rolling, it was hard to be stopped.