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Memories in the Making: Loving the Lab – Becky Lynn

Acer rubrum”… R in rubrum, r in red….Red Maple!

“The mouth passes the eye socket… it’s a largemouth bass!”

Canis lupus”… Canine…. Lupus like Professor Lupin in Harry Potter… Gray Wolf!

Forestry, wildlife and fisheries, NRRT, or water and soils, it doesn’t matter. All Warnellians have been there. Remembering scientific names for classes such as Dendrology, Mammalogy, Wildlife techniques, etc. is now a strong and everlasting memory for me. Now that I am in my final semester here at UGA, I walk through the lounge and past the lab seeing younger students with their species lists and note cards. I am thankful to say that I made it through the list of classes of memorization and I have hope that if I could, then anyone can! In this blog, I am here to reminisce on this very process that every Warnellian has a love-hate relationship with.

For the sake of staying consistent, I will use Vertebrate Natural History taught by Dr. Castleberry as my model. The first step is receiving the assignment. I printed off that first species list and sat in that first lab looking at power point slides of the animals with discolored specimens or missing parts sitting in front of me on the table. I’m thinking this is pretty cool; this should be easy. Then the words “You need to know the Class, Order, Genus, Species, ID and a few facts about all of these species for the CUMULATIVE test in 3 weeks,” comes out of his mouth. My heart sinks. “Oh and we will have weekly quizzes to make sure you are staying on top of it.” My jaw drops. I make eye contact with my classmates and they have that same look on their faces. The muttering begins. I think everyone is in a slight state of shock. Lab ends. The second step begins when I go home and begin to study. I open my notes and glance over the knowledge that will be in my head in the near future. A rush of hopelessness falls over me. There is no way I can do this. After an hour or so, the anger sets in. How could we be assigned so much material?! I can just look this up! I have other classes to take! At this point I close my notes and call it a night.

The third step is a search for solace. I go to class the next day and talk to my peers. I am not alone! This is where the key to success begins. I asked others who have taken the course how they made it through. Everyone has their own methods (for example I wasn’t a note carder) but below I have provided a bulleted list of what worked best for me.

  • Over and Over and Over again. On Scrap paper. On whiteboards. In quiet rooms where I could say it at the same time.
  • Then I would write and say names with the power point pictures.
  • Make the move to the lab. Hold the specimens and find relatable characteristics to their names (that 50% of the time you are pronouncing wrong). “Black rat… its all black! That was easy.”
  • Then talk to peers. Oftentimes there will be remembering cues that you didn’t think of or see. “Did you notice that the Marsh Rice Rat skull has a white spot on it like a piece of rice??”
  • Repeat above steps whenever you have the time or motivation.

The fourth step is the day of the test. For this particular class, we have the joy of waiting ALL day to take it. Everyone is running in and out of the lab for as long as possible, in between class, and other professors close your eyes, but during your classes too. Then, the lab door closes for test set up and all students move to the lounge. This is when the anxiety hits an all time high. I usually leave at this point, get some fresh air and take a small mental breather. I return right before test time. I receive my sheet of blank lines that will be completely filled with bizarre words in an hour. The best feeling is coming to an easy question where you write down your answer, fold your paper and doodle on it, waiting for the beep to move to the next station. I don’t even need to explain the worst feeling…

The fifth step comes after the test when a sense of relief rushes over me. It is nice knowing that I have a short-lived break (until next lab), however these names still linger in my head and in my dreams.

Lastly is receiving my grade. I had a few bumpy ones in there, but overall I did pretty well. By the end of the semester, the sense of accomplishment I felt about all the information I was able to cram into my brain was a pretty cool feeling. I will admit it doesn’t all stick forever, but it truly is a memory special to my time at Warnell that I will never forget!

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