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Empowerment- It all Started with a Modern-Day Dinosaur- by Catlyn Chapman

This past summer of 2018, I had the opportunity of starting a senior thesis project with UGA’s Sturgeon lab. I am a fisheries major and knew if I wanted to go to graduate school that doing a thesis project would be a good idea. If you are just now into Warnell, you might be wondering what a thesis even is. You will find out shortly trust me, but keep reading to see why it can be such an amazing experience!

The project started in Darien, GA where I learned how to collect data on an amazing fish called the Atlantic Sturgeon. These fish can be as small as your hand or even bigger than me! We caught all of our fish using nets, tagged each fish, measured them, and then released them. During our sampling I also learned how to properly maneuver a boat down a boat ramp (it’s pretty challenging). I was only there for a week, but I feel like I advanced as a professional in so many ways. The entire fall semester, we started analyzing data from many summers of using these same techniques mentioned. If you haven’t had a chance to get to know R, it seems like a foreign language, but it gets better I promise. It will be so useful when you try to piece together all of the data you collect.

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This semester I had the honor of attending the Georgia Annual AFS Conference where I got to present part of this thesis project. I was super nervous, but the entire Sturgeon lab made me feel so confident. Once I presented, I felt like I could accomplish anything since it was so scary to speak in front of such a mature audience. At the end of the conference, they gave out awards. I was so surprised when I found out that I won the best presentation award and when I received the Georgia AFS Scholarship for 2019. I was able to meet so many professionals and people from other schools, and I learned so much from the other talks that I heard. If you want to get more involved in Warnell, definitely attend a conference! I promise you won’t regret it.

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Today, this experience is still continuing as I am finishing writing my thesis. The people I have been surrounded by throughout this process have given me the confidence to not be scared to admit that I don’t always know what I’m doing. They’ve accepted my mistakes and taught me how to be better. I have never felt so empowered as a woman in science as I have while being a part of Warnell and being supported by the woman in this picture. We have been able to voice our opinions, live our dreams, and support each other as we all embark on a journey of informing the world around us how important conservation is. I am so proud to call these people pictured some of my greatest friends. I am so grateful for the constant support and empowerment Warnell has given me.

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