In January, I visited the University of Georgia Plant Biology program as a prospective graduate student. I was invited to three other recruitment events in the end of February. As a result, the last two weeks of February were a whirlwind tour of graduate programs across the eastern United States, from subtropical Louisiana to snowy Pennsylvania. In the second to last weekend of February, I visited Louisiana State University, followed by a trip to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and ending with a trip to the University of Pittsburgh. Thus, my time recently has been spent frantically answering emails, sleeping on air mattresses, living in airports, and partaking in good food and even better conversations.
Starting February 18, I began my visit to the Louisiana State University (LSU) Department of Biological Sciences. After some initial stress over delayed flights, I arrived at my host’s apartment after being kindly shuttled there by my professor of interest (POI). I was introduced to another prospective student to the lab who coincidentally had a very similar first name to my own, leading to confusion when we were introduced to the grad students and faculty on Friday. My day was filled with faculty talks and meetings, Cajun food, and a walk through campus where I saw many beautiful live oaks (Quercus virginiana).
Saturday, the prospective students interested in ecology joined grad students and post-docs to visit pine savanna field sites. We trekked through a recently-burned pine savanna, picking out the husks of pitcher plants (Sarracenia sp.), holly (Ilex sp.), and a bone-white turtle shell. Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) saplings stood out in the field, ringed in black, but with buds protected. In the pine savanna wetland, we caught cricket frogs (Acris sp.) and watched tadpoles flit about under the surface.
We stopped for a picnic meal of fruit, cheeses, bread, and more. As we moved into unburned pine savanna sites, we spotted tiny sundews (Drosera sp.), and many species of grass and sedge. As it turned to dusk, February mosquitoes descended upon me, and we headed to dinner.
I found chatting with my POI and the other graduate students to be very enjoyable; the department exuded a feeling of openness, and I felt that there was a significant amount of ecology research being performed and clear ways for me to connect my research with others. I look forward to hearing from the department as I consider graduate schools.