Digging In

Getting Buried
by Zachary Brecheisen -- October 29th, 2013

Rounding out the day with a cool drink and some light reading

Being a grad student at Duke is honestly one of the best things you can hope for if you’re the kind of person who likes to stay busy. Between taking courses and reading up on the latest & greatest research in different fields (photo 1), to TA-ing and learning all about forestry with a fun group of students (photos 2 fieldwork, 3 leaf/tree ID practice), to trips to a conference in Prague (photos 4,5) and a Critical Zone Observatory conclave in South Carolina (photo 6), and numerous outings and get together’s, grant/fellowship proposals, awesome talks and seminars, there is ALWAYS something (often several things) to do any time. Google calendar is a beautiful thing…

Dan leading a field activity for the Forest Measurements class in the Duke Forest

I’ve been working on getting settled into Durham having gotten here a couple months before classes started to get a head start on working in Dan Richter’s lab in the Nicholas School. I’ve been working on a huge new project surveying soils down to two meters in depth throughout the country of Gabon in Africa (right below the “horn”).

Tree ID samples help to liven up office space and are good for review

This was a wonderful way to get familiar with the lab and LSRC. I cannot begin to describe how weird it was when LSRC was transformed from a quiet mix of solitary PhD students shuffling around (plus me, the greenhorn) to the bustling bunch of people as new and returning MEM’s, MF’s, and the rest of my PhD cohort arrived at the beginning of the semester.

One of the many beautiful churches in Prague

In the time since the start of the year, aside from the massive list of things I outlined previously which will become future blogs (TAing, travel, etc… each with lots of photos), I have bought and moved into a home near the Duke Homestead. If you happen to read this and are looking for a realtor, I know a lady who gets things done! Still though, it was a bumpy road that is only just beginning to even out as troubles from getting a mortgage have now been replaced with the occasional leaks and breaks that you have to fix as a home owner. My wonderful girlfriend, Tory, and I are feeling more and more at home though and are certainly looking forward to the holidays and visiting friends and relatives from back home.

Me in front of the main castle in historic Prague

Tory and I are originally from New Mexico having graduated from NMSU in 2010 and 2012 respectively. I took the scenic route through undergrad with lots and lots of classes adding up to a hodgepodge of majors and minors including studies of biology, anthropology, sustainable development, conservation ecology, wildlife science, and English.

I feel pretty well rounded, which is certainly something I still appreciate, but I can definitely understand that I would benefit from a little more depth than breadth in my graduate studies now. Each day the amazing faculty, students, and my own wonderings here at Duke have taught me many new things that I’ve been working and running through my mind to link together with things I already know. I honestly have dreams about soil (not “dirt”) at least once a week.

Dan talking about the impacts of historic land-use at the new Calhoun CZO in South Carolina

Wiping the sand from my eyes, I dig my way up and out of the cavernous contemplations of my dreams and view out into the forest that is my backyard (photo 7) and feel more at peace than I have in a long while.

My “good morning, forest” view each day

There are a lot of things happening these days and quite a bit to catch up on, stay tuned!

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