Monday, January 15, 2018

Allie Davis takes her "tern" with research

Allie Davis, a Biology Secondary Education major in Verrazano Class of 2018, decides research isn't for the birds. . .

Ahem, a tern

My name is Allie Davis, I am a biology-education major, and it is finally my tern to reflect on the work I have been doing alongside Dr. Lisa Manne. If you noticed my misspelling of ‘turn,’ back there, it was completely intentional, I assure you. My research project focused on the specimen to the left: The Common Tern. The Common tern is a species of shorebird and if you did not know that, you are in the same boat I was in over a year ago. Back then, this reflection seemed to exist in a galaxy somewhere far, far away. Now, on the other side of the undergraduate research conference (which is nowhere near as scary as it sounds), the waves look a whole lot smoother.

            I was beyond anxious when I really had to start thinking about a Capstone project. How do I ask a professor? Who do Ichoose? How do I find one working on something I am interested in? What if I can only find professors who are doing boring work and I have no choice but to do it anyway? Should I just drop out of Verrazano? Who needs a special graduation or priority registration anyway? 

            “If you’re thinking you’d rather drop out of Verrazano than do this, don’t fret. Come and see me!”

            Okay, so I know two things: dropping out is not going to be an option and Cheryl in the Verrazano office might be a mind reader. As it terns out, the biology office has a whole list of professors doing active research complete with a description and an email address for your information. Fortunately for me, Dr. Lisa Manne saved me from a “meh, it’s a topic, I guess” option and I knew her from a brief research stint involving Asian Shore Crabs. Apparently, a scientist in Massachusetts, Dr. Ian Nisbet, had contacted Dr. Veit and Dr. Manne here at CSI about a forty-eight-year time series he had compiled of a bunch of Terns who settled on Bird Island near his home. He documented their nesting dates, laying dates, number of eggs laid, number of pairs of Terns that settled, and calculated how productive the birds’ reproduction was. For forty-eight years! To think I can’t even keep a journal for longer than a day. 

            At the time of our initial meeting, I had roughly 1% knowledge on birds, but we were talking about animals being impacted by climate change, so I was beyond intrigued. In the beginning, my project only revolved around the Common Tern, though I would find out later that there are numerous species of terns. The first step in data analysis, however, was a crash course in statistics using a program, R. After I was reasonably adequate in using it, it was time to put theory into practice. Our objective: to determine the effects of climate change on the abundance of Common Terns found on Bird Island. 

            Months later, I can confidently say that I have increased my knowledge to about 12%. An argument can be made for 15%. Okay, the percentages are not exactly accurate, but I wanted to slip a movie quote in here when I saw the opportunity. Avengers aside, we performed a LOT of statistical tests on the data. We wanted to leave no aspect of phenology unconsidered. I ran tests from simple t-tests between two variables (to see whether climate had a significant effect on any variables of phenology) to more complicated tests like path analysis (to determine the cause-and-effect relationships of different variables). And once we ran through all these tests with Common terns, we got MORE data. This time, we would do the same procedure as with Commons, but with their sister species, Roseate Terns (on the left). You’re probably thinking it looks identical to the Common up above, but go back and look; they ARE different. 
Allie presents her work at the Undergraduate Research Conference
            For the results, you can read my abstract (or for the brave, my entire paper), but I’ll give you the short answer. The DIRECT effects of climate change on Common Terns? Not much apparently. On Roseate Terns? Significantly more, but not enough to alert the media…YET. Because even though my Capstone research ended the day of the undergraduate conference, there’s another aspect to consider. I put emphasis on the word ‘direct’ for this reason: what about the INDIRECT effects? Maybe climate does not impact the lives of these birds as much as it impacts something like the availability of the Terns’ food source. It is measurable, attainable, and could shed some light on a different piece of Tern phenology. Lisa was able to obtain data for several fisheries in Massachusetts, so seeing whether any of that data connects with climate change will be our next step.  

            Over a year ago when I first started to think about the Capstone project, I was not excited about it. But honestly, it quickly became something that was fun, relevant, and something I cared about more than just a grade. Before, I had no idea in which field of biology I should study, but now, I’m heavily considering ecology. I’m not going to lie; it helps significantly that through working under Lisa, I received the opportunity to study abroad in the US Virgin Islands. That, my friend, was entirely worth it. Before I close out this blog post, I want to thank Dr. Lisa Manne for leading me through using R, teaching me how to write an official research paper, and for being an awesome ecology professor. I also want to thank Dr. Richard Veit for working with us on this research and connecting us with Dr. Nisbet. To those who are reading this on the Verrazano blog: if you’re nervous or completely terrified and would rather stow away on a plane to Greenland than get to work on your Capstone research, reconsider. You might just end up finding your niche in science and besides, it’s way too cold in Greenland.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Bun Goes International

Annalise Puntorno, a Science, Letters, and Society major in the Verrazano Class of 2019, visited Florence in the summer of 2017.

The Bun Goes International
My famous bun has been my signature look from high school days to across the pond in Ireland and Scotland to finally Florence, Italy this summer. From the minute my friends and I touched down in Florence the magic of the beautiful city captured my heart.  There were kind faces and stunning architecture everywhere I looked. Music filled the air. I was fortunate enough to live close to the Duomo in the center of Florence, there was always liveliness around my street.

The food in Florence was amazing, so fresh and there was constantly a new combination to try. My favorite dish is hard to choose so my top three are: pear raviolis, spinach raviolis with avocado and pomegranate seeds and lastly tomato and basil pasta with fresh mozzarella. Each dish was better than the last. The real winner in Florence though is the gelato. It is to die for, every flavor was delicious and refreshing. My whole gelato fund was used wisely and happily spent. my daily gelato was frequently a highlight of the day, a great relief from the Tuscan sun.

Every day was a new adventure. Florence is filled with magnificent views of the city. The Piazza Michelangelo had the whole landscape of Florence filled with the famous buildings in perfect view.
The Duomo, the Bell Tower and the country side all in sight. Another spectacular view was climbing to the top of the Duomo. We climbed 465 steps to the top and I felt like I was on top on the world. So close to the tops of buildings, it was surreal. The views had to be one of my favorite adventures.

Another great gift of Florence was friendship and knowledge.  I travelled with my best friend and a new friend I met to be our roommate. But through this trip I gained a new friend that will be life long, and I rekindled old friendships with girls I haven’t spoken to in a long time. It was such a life changing experience to further our friendship and to grow closer to one another amongst a city we were dazzled by but lost in all at once. We overcame difficulties and we went on endless adventures. I learned how to be independent and free. I was able to find myself and experience that I would not be able to do at home. I also studied Italian which it greatly improved due to this trip. I learned so much about the language and culture. However, practice makes perfect and practice I must.
I experienced other areas of Italy like the Amalfi Coast and Capri which was one of my favorite trips. The beach was gorgeous but Capri was magical. The views, the food, and the hike up the mountain was definitely my favorite. Tuscany was a close second. The country side is stunning and makes you feel like you’re a part of nature. The wineries were intricate and the workers held so much pride in their work. It was nice to see such a united community. 

Overall my study abroad experience was a trip of a life time. It was filled with adventure, friendship and knowledge. I was able to get in touch with my culture and see how other parts of the world live. Which really isn’t that different from us. It was a beautiful experience that I would recommend to all and would definitely do again if given the opportunity. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Networking between CSI and China

Cheikh Ndiaye, a Political Science/Philosophy Major (with minors in Legal Studies and French) in the Verrazano Class of 2020, worked with a CSI professor to arrange a study abroad to a colleague's intsitution in China.

During the summer session, from June to August of 2017, I went to study at Fudan University, located in Shanghai, China. I took three different courses: Chinese Mandarin; International Investment Law; and Political Culture & Public Opinion in Contemporary China. Fudan University’s building contained not only the school, but also a five-star hotel, restaurants and dormitories. At first, the school seemed intimidating, but the locals were very welcoming.
Cheikh at Fudan University

Friends from around the world
The classroom experience was very surprising. The technology used was very advanced and we learned while using automatic smart-boards. The students in the classroom were from all cultures and customs. These people were from Canada, England, Singapore, Sweden and the United States, among others. Everyone was serious about learning. In addition, the professor was very helpful and engaging.
Through the study abroad program, I was able to take part in viewing historical sites in China. One site that I visited was in Hangzhou, which is 2 hours away from Shanghai by bullet train. Once arriving close to the site, our class had to take a boat to get to the destination. I went to a Chinese temple on top of a pond. Inside were photos and icons of the Buddhist religion. 
Travel is incredibly important--and I'm just beginning. In the Spring of 2018, I'm off to Florence, Italy for another adventure!
In front of a temple in Hangzhou

Monday, December 4, 2017

Volunteering: It's Marathon, Not a Sprint!

Lilian Al-keswani, a Biology major in the Verrazano Class of 2020, challenges herself, then gives back to those who supported her!

Lily finishes the Brooklyn half-marathon
        It was January 14, 2016. It was 6 am. It was cold. It was dark. But I felt alive. I ate my usual breakfast of oatmeal, laced my running shoes up and headed out the door. Running at this time, the air felt so pure and so clean. I felt the cold air hit my face and smiled. Training for the Brooklyn half marathon wasn't so bad, for a minute.....  This thought would last for a moment and then it would flee. It was hard to think about anything except for the pain. And to not think of the pain, I think of numbers. 5 miles down, 3 more miles to go. And this was considered a "short" run. I'm going to take a break after 720 meters. "I can do it, think about something else," I tell myself. Then I focus on the thumping sound that my feet makes against the ground. 1 thump 2 thump 3 thump and so on. 
       Some running days were better than others. Perhaps it was my diet for the week, or even if I was just too sore to go out for a run but no matter what you're feeling, you always need to push yourself when you have a huge commitment like this (unless you feel like you have an injury, then you should probably take a rest.) I trained alone for 4 months before the big race but on May 21, 2016 , the day of the Brooklyn half marathon, I ran with 50,000 other people. We all had the same goal in mind: have fun and cross the finish line without puking. 
       We started in the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, through and around Prospect Park, onto the highway approaching Ocean Parkway and made our way to the Coney Island board walk. There were moments where I wanted to stop and take a break but all of the volunteers who were handing out water and electrolytes and all the family members and people cheered me on for miles and I couldn't let them down. I met a volunteer by the name of Veronica whom gave me advice to take a pace myself accordingly to my training and to take deep, controlled breaths. Also, the 4 months of training made me a stronger person. "If I stop now, I'm going
Gotta celebrate!
to have to restart and regain all the momentum and speed again, no time for that.l" And with that mindset and advice given to me, I crossed the finish line of 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 7 minutes. This moment was so worth the 4 months of hard, critical training. It was worth all the pain I've endured. It was also worth all the nights staying up late to plan for the week coming up and I wanted to do it again. And so I did ... a few months later. 
       I trained for another 4 months to run the New York City half marathon. This time, I knew my previous mistakes. I knew my body even more and how much potential my body can take me if I put my mind to it. And this time, I crossed the finish line in 2 hours flat. 
You might think "ok big deal, she was 7 minutes faster." But those 7 minutes was difficult to achieve as an 18 year old. If I wasn't a runner, I would want to sit home all day and eat some chocolate. But because I wanted to break my 2 hour time, I put the chocolate to the side and mentally trained  myself that giving up this moment would bring me a greater moment in the future. 
     After my second half marathon, I wanted to experience what it was like to be a volunteer. I wanted to cheer runners on and motivate them to not stop. I wanted to comfort those runners by giving them a positive pep talk because, let's be real here, running 13.1 miles is not easy. I wanted to give back everything those volunteers gave me. One day, I get an email from my academic advisor   (Cheryl) asking for volunteers to participate for the full New York City marathon. I eagerly applied. The morning of the marathon, I woke up at 5 am, got some coffee and ran out the door. 

Lili and Liridona help at the NYC marathon!
     Upon arriving to the starting line, I noticed the runners waves of colors. As runners, we tend to wear colorful sneakers and attire. No idea why but I'm accepting of it. I see runners warming up and running around the Verrazano bridge. I see runners laying down sleeping because it was 5 am, and I saw runners drinking the last bit of their protein shakes. I met a runner by the name of Joey and he ran 42 full marathons and even had a tattoo of the TCS NYC marathon logo on his calf. After meeting him, I was told to arrive at my assigned corral and help the runners prepare before the gun shot went off. Lined up runners would pass (and throw) their sweaters to me for donation. It was my job to place them in plastic containers. It was also my job to hand out water and Gatorade. As I pass one to a runner, it coincidentally happened to be a girl with the name Veronica and I thought that I was destined to meet her because what are the chances that I would meet a runner with the same name as the volunteer who gave me a pep talk when I was a runner for the marathon. I enjoyed my time as a volunteer so much I was asked to go to take the private charter bus owned by the TCS NYC marathon company to the finish line for an exclusive view and cheer on the finishing runners after running 26.2 miles. They inspire me to try an attempt the 26.2 miles but for now, I want to focus on running half marathons and continue volunteering. I will be volunteering for the next NYC marathon in November. Contact me at for more information on volunteering for an amazing experience that may change your life. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Toufic Eid: Big Win in the Big Easy

 Toufic Eid (Class of 2017) completed his BS with a major in Business and concentrations in Management and Marketing. He is currently enrolled in the Master's of Science in Business Management at the College of Staten Island.

Toufic Eid posting with his team's award
One of my most memorable moments in my college years would have to be when I competed in the International American Marketing Association Case Competition, where chapters develop a full marketing plan for the upcoming year for a sponsor. At first, when entering the competition, I was unsure of our potential. However, after watching the team blossom in their strongest areas, I now see the potential and strong attitude we dolphins hold. With the strong encouragement from the loving and caring staff as well as the motivation provided by professor Dan Zhang, my team was able to lose our insecurity and build confidence within the real-business world. I can say that I now truly understand the hard work and energy it takes to become a marketer.
         From the extensive rehearsal hours to the sleepless nights, my team placed 3rd in the competition out of 250 competing universities. I know for a fact that just because we looked like the smallest team there, we still walked in with our fins held high as we stood in front of the eBay executives. I guess it is true to say that people really do "fear the fin!" This experience has strengthened my passion for business. I took it all in: traveling to New Orleans, networking with other students from other universities, observing different cultures, and of course the amazing food. How could anyone not love beignets, gumbo, and grits? This travel experience was life-changing; I learned a lot, from the fine points of business dress, how to socialize in a professional setting, and developing my public speaking abilities. This was one of the most memorable moments of my college life.

CSI takes third place in an international marketing competition

However, this entire trip would not have been possible without the crew working behind the curtains. With the help of the dean Susan Holak and staff members like Debbie Laura, we were able to travel to the conference that was held in the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana. The school of business has been a tremendous contributor to the whole team and has helped us attend the event. I could not have been more appreciative and thankful for all the school of business does and provides. For that I am proud to be a CSI-School of Business, undergraduate, an helping set the standard for future teams.
I hope to continue the success for the school of business by encouraging more leaders and outstanding students to join future teams to compete. We learned the value of practicing in front of unfamiliar faces and of playing to our strengths. After watching the winning team, it was noticeable to see the time and effort it took to design the slides. For future teams, I recommend picking a design major undergraduate to spice up the full package. I wouldn't be discouraged if you felt you didn't have the resources to compete; for instance, the heat maps I generated were completed from scratch using no programmed software. Lastly, I would like to remind the future team that they are capable of anything just like any other teams and students from other universities. We are dolphins--Fear the Fin!