Notes from the field

Undergraduates of the Botany and Conservation Biology Majors share how their experiences have inspired their studies:


NaomiNaomi Miicke
Naomi is a Botany major graduating in December 2017.
Curiosity of plants and how they function has been, and continues to be a dominant trait of mine that makes me "me". As a child, I would spend hours examining plants, tasting them, smelling them, pulling them apart, growing them and admiring them. I always knew that working with plants was where I belonged. I strayed from that path and that’s where I went wrong. As a returning adult student, I sometimes wondered, had I missed the boat? Is there room for me in the world of Botany?
University of Wisconsin-Madison has given me that shot, and thanks to the staff here I’ve discovered my route. One day in lecture it all became clear when Prof. Graham explained the role algae played in oxygenating our atmosphere. Eureka! I want to study phycology!
The potential of algae for food, industrial products, bioremediation, and biofuels is a perfect match for the environmentalist in me.
My second passion is imaging, I have had the privilege to learn different microscopy imaging techniques, and have quite the knack for capturing great shots. For one of my class projects I imaged water samples from the botany garden pond and created an informational poster showing the diversity of life that thrives beneath the surface.
Thanks to my plant morphology class I am now able to view plants with fresh eyes. And I was reminded that plant evolution and history lead back to algae, solidifying my decision to pursue studying phycology. I am excited to start my senior thesis project, which will bring together algae, plant evolution, and imaging. My greatest wish is for my work to contribute to a healthy environment for my daughter and granddaughters to enjoy, and for the rest of humanity as well. 


Becca RodriguezBecca Rodriguez
Becca is a Conservation Biology major graduating in May 2017.
My main field experience while here at UW-Madison was about a year ago when I had the opportunity to study abroad during the spring semester with the Ceiba tropical conservation program in Ecuador. During my time in Ecuador I was able to explore one of the most biodiverse places in the world. We traveled across the country and were exposed to many different types of ecosystems including the Amazon rainforest, tropical dry forest, high-altitude páramo, and the Galapágos Islands. Of the many diverse activities that I took part in, my internship in the Galápagos Islands and the time we spent in the Amazon rainforest were the most memorable.
I chose to do my internship in the Galápagos because it was a place like I had never experienced before and the organisms living there are unlike those anywhere else on earth. During my time as an intern I worked with various employees of the park to supervise environmentally focused outings for the children on the island, as well as to conduct population health surveys on the marine iguanas and sea lions of the island.
About halfway into my time in Ecuador our program went to the Tiputini Biodiversity Research Center in the Amazon rainforest where we stayed for two weeks. During this time I explored the many trails branching out from the research center as well as conducted a tropical ecology research project with a few other students. This experience gave me valuable insight into the ups and downs that come along with field research, as my group ended up having to reinvent our project multiple times during our stay. In the end, gallivanting around that pristine rainforest with my group while looking for tree fall gaps is an experience I will never forget because it is something that only a handful of people in the world will ever be able to say that they did.