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New Year Updates

January is on the waning end, and I have exciting news.

LTUE is coming up in about three weeks, and I will be appearing on five panels, listed below. (You can also see my event schedule under the “Events” tab in the top menu bar). LTUE has been a huge highlight for me over the past several years, and I can’t wait to meet and get together with all you creative, writerly people once again for this fabulous symposium. Oh, yeah…and I’m scheduled to be on a panel with Todd McCaffrey and Brandon Sanderson! (And other cool people, too). *Freaking out over the awesome just a little*

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February 15-17 at the Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Provo

Thursday

  • 9:00-9:45 AM (Bryce) Terraforming and Colonizing Venus
    We tend to think of Mars as more hospitable for colonization than Venus, but Venus has certain advantages for colonization as well. What can we do to colonize Venus right now? What might we do to make Venus more hospitable to human life?
    Brad R. Torgersen, Scott R. Parkin (Moderator), Darci Rhoades Stone, Kevin Evans, Sarah E. Seeley
  • 2:00-2:45 PM (Maple) How Weather Works
    Weather is affected by all sorts of factors. How do oceans, mountains, latitude, tilt, and magnetic fields all contribute to weather? What happens when these variables are changed?
    Erekson Holt, Shannon Babb, Sarah E. Seeley (Moderator), Darci Rhoades Stone
  • 5:00-5:45 PM (Bryce) Paleontology for the Created World
    Now that you’ve created or discovered a new world, what can you expect its prehistoric life to be like? How would the fossil record be affected by life (mythical or otherwise) or robots that were created?
    Dr. Jonh K. Lundwall, Josi Russell, Nikhil Pillarisetti Rao, Sarah E. Seeley, Rowan North (Moderator)

Friday

  • 7:00 PM Mass Author Signing–Open to the public!

Saturday

  • 10:00-10:45 AM (Arches) Biology & Physiology of Mythical Creatures
    Dragons, griffins, centaurs, werewolves, and so forth. What do we understand about the biology of mythical creatures?
    Nikhil Pillarisetti Rao, Sarah E. Seeley, C.A. Preece (Moderator), D.W. Dalton, Devon Dorrity
  • 2:00-2:45 PM (Canyon) What It’s Like: Writing in Somebody Else’s Milieu
    This is NOT a “how to write in somebody else’s milieu”; this is “what is it like?” Did you still like the milieu afterwards? We want stories from those invited to write.
    Karen Evans, Sarah E. Seeley, Todd McCaffrey, Brad R. Torgersen (Moderator), Brandon Sanderson

In other news, I have just finished up yet another round of grad school applications. I’m applying to one US school, two schools in Canada, and one school in the UK, all programs with specialists in paleoarchaeology. My plan is to try and shoot for a Master’s to see if that will help me be more competitive for PhD programs. Fingers crossed that this is my year!

I’m also giving a poster presentation of my Koobi Fora mentored research project at the Society for American Archaeology conference in April. Super excited!

Keep writing and dreaming  ya’ll! 🙂

In Memory of Professor Eugene Clark

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On this Christmas day, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a professor who has had a profound impact on my academic path and life in general.

I just learned that Eugene Clark, one of the most amazing science teachers and incredible human beings I’ve ever had the opportunity to cross paths with in my life, has just passed away. He’s had a huge impact on my education. I took three concurrent enrollment classes (classes registered through a local university for college credit) from him in high school, and a couple of geology classes from him at BYU. I remember him most fondly for making the football players in my high school geology class carry me on field trips when I was recovering from foot surgeries. For his hand-made de-motivational posters and his wry sense of humor. For driving a motorcycle to work instead of a car to save fuel and leave a better impact on the environment. For encouraging young men and young women to be respectful of one another, and for advocating and teaching a sense of profundity in co-educational teamwork. And for his testimony of the Gospel in the little things he mentioned like how he and his wife liked to go to the temple for date nights to do sealings.

He cared so much about his students’ individual learning needs and instilled a love of physics, engineering, astronomy, and geology in me that has enriched my life. In his physics class in high school, I got to work with a team of other students to build, and fire shot puts from, a life-size working trebuchet. Going to Costa Rica with a high school class to learn about volcanoes and hike through rain forests was a life-changing experience for me. He encouraged me to pursue geology at BYU and to apply for a department scholarship that eased the burden of educational expenses my first semester. If he hadn’t invited me to work as a teaching assistant for some of his labs at BYU, I might not have made the push through my social anxiety to build confidence in teaching content I had already learned to others.

As I have applied to graduate schools many times in more recent years since graduating from BYU, he has always been willing to write letters of recommendation for me whenever I’ve asked him. This year when I reached out, I learned from his daughter that he came home early from an LDS mission he and his wife were serving and has been battling cancer for the better part of this year. I have learned that he passed away just a few days ago. I, and many students whom this man has taught over the years, will sorely miss him. His humble and sincere influence for good in our lives is beyond measure.

Brother Clark, thank you for all that you have done for us many, many students, and God be with you ’til we all meet again.

December Updates

While my blogging has been a little more spread out this year than in the past, I love looking back this time of year and reflecting (internally if not always in writing) on where I’ve been as well as where I hope to be and what I hope to do in the coming year. I had the amazing opportunity to serve as Relief Society secretary in my LDS single’s ward through April. (I’m currently serving as a visiting teaching supervisor, and I love it!) I became an aunt/first cousin once removed. I lived in a tent in Kenya for six weeks, networked with some wonderful people there, and rekindled my love for the natural history of the earth. I started working at an environmental consulting company, and I have learned and grown so much from all of these things and more.

I’ve submitted another round of grad school applications. Three of the four schools I’ve applied to are outside the US (one school is in the UK, and two are in Canada). My hope is that obtaining a master’s degree in a paleoanthropology field will allow me to be more competitive when applying to PhD programs again down the road. Advice I received this summer was that schools outside the US are more likely to offer terminal masters programs than US schools (most of the US schools I’ve looked at do not offer terminal masters). I also have duo citizenship with Canada, which I’m hoping might be a cool and worthwhile thing to tap into at this point where graduate education might be concerned.

For writing news specifically, my story “Thought Power” will appear in Jason King’s Valcoria Awakenings anthology on the 19th of this month. I have not seen the book cover yet, but it should be coming soon! The other authors contributing to this anthology and I have all been waiting quite a while for this to come out, and we’re very excited to have you read these fun adventures set in the world of Jason’s fantasy series.

There is also a giveaway on Goodreads for a free copy of the anthology. Check it out! http://bit.ly/2B3p6bg

I don’t know exactly what the new year has in store for me, but I’m so grateful for all of the supportive people I have in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am as a writer and pending scientist without the wonderful people I’ve come in contact with, and come to know and learn from over the years. Thanks so much for reading and for following my writing journey online.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and have a wonderful new year!

May Updates: Preparing for Kenya

For all those who contributed to my GoFundMe campaign at the beginning of the year, you’re all angels, and I thank you once more for your generosity and encouragement in helping me meet my initial deposit for my course. This update highlights the status of my trip preparations.

For the past three and a half weeks I have been taking an online prep course as part of the study abroad experience, and will be finishing that up at the end of this week. Interacting with my long-distance classmates and getting my feet wet for the field has been a delightful experience so far, and I’m look forward to embarking on this adventure. I officially leave June 8th (in a little over a week!) and return home July 24th. I’ll be spending six weeks in Kenya, studying the environments that surrounded the biological origins of man through George Washington University’s study abroad program. While abroad, I will have the opportunity to see fossil and artifact collections at the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi before leaving for more remote locations connected to the Koobi Fora Field School. This will be part refresher course and part completely new experience for me as I learn more about how different sub-disciplines within the field of paleoanthropology blend together to contribute to the big picture of the natural mechanisms that shaped our species and made us human.

I will be going to a wildlife conservancy ranch to observe living ecosystems and animal behavior as a model for past ecosystems and behavior, then learning more about ecology, taphonomy, faunal analysis in bone assemblages, the emergence of the earliest stone tool cultures, using stratigraphy and sedimentology (geology) in a paleontological context, and discussing human evolution in the fossil record as a whole to reconstruct past environments and understand evolutionary pressures that shaped human anatomy and cognition. I will also be participating in an independent research project under the mentorship of one of several participating professors. (This will be mentored research project number three for me, alongside my undergraduate projects exploring insect scavenging patterns on sauropod bones from a Dinosaur National Monument site, and learning how to reconstruct the family trees of fossil dragonflies using their wing anatomy).

Most of my preparations for the course (plane ticket, medical check-ups and vaccinations, gathering supplies) are just about complete. I have a few more things to do before I’m completely ready, but I’m pretty much literally all packed. (Okay, I’m still trying to figure out how to fit everything into my bags and what’s going to stay behind…but I’m getting really close!) I’m mostly camping for a month and a half, so I’ve splurged on an ultra-light cot and a little portable solar panel pack to charge my camera batteries and such to go with my ultra-inexpensive Walmart tent. Plus I’m bringing loads of sunscreen, hats, trail shoes, flashlights with rechargeable batteries that double as power storage, pens and notebooks, many of my usual toiletries… And I’ve got a mini set of scriptures all packed too.

This isn’t my first time flying outside of the US, and it isn’t my first time flying alone–but it will be my first time leaving the country AND flying solo. (I’ll be meeting up with my classmates, who are coming from around the world, when I reach Kenya). This will also be my first time going on a big academic trip as the only LDS person in the group (at least, I assume I will be the only LDS person in the group). Weirdly enough, my biggest concern has been over not being able to attend church for six weeks (I’ll be in remote locations most of the time and may not be able to have access to a meeting place–which, really, will be fine for a short period of time), or having someone think I’m weird because I don’t drink tea or coffee. My mother’s greatest fear, on the other hand, is that I’m going to get eaten by a lion or a crocodile. Or that I’m going to contract some crazy illness from mosquitoes.

I’m most excited to meet my classmates and to explore…The Circle of Life… *Had to make a Lion King reference.*

I may post one more time before I leave. But if not, I will post again when I return at the end of July and share the details of my adventures then (I will have little access to the internet, or to conventional electricity for that matter, for most of my trip). I will also take lots of pictures and post them online somewhere (so far I have requests for giraffes and elephants–if I see some, I’ll take pics). I cannot fully express how thrilled I am to be going on this trip, both for academic reasons and for enrichment. I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity. Many of my friends and family have been rooting for me, and I have felt your love, encouragement, assurance, and confidence, both communicated and unspoken. While it has admittedly been a little nerve-racking figuring out the financing for this trip, so many things have come together to make it happen. This field experience is going to be hard work, with many new and challenging aspects for me–and I’m excited to learn. Whether I get into graduate school or not as I continue to apply in the future, I’ll have some wonderful adventures to share from this trip and inspiration for new tales.