Week 10: Go Out And Do It Already!
Hey all, and welcome back to my blog.
This week, I’ve aimed to accomplish any unfinished goals of mine which remain in my project.
On Thursday, I visited the farm for the final time for this project. Last week was what Dr. Cuonzo and Vita Wallace considered the end of the beginning of summer. Some plants, namely, honeyberry and raspberry, had produced fruits as they do twice a year: at the beginning of summer and beginning of fall. Other plants, such as peaches and sour cherries, produce in hotter weather; I observed these fruits starting to develop and ripen.
At one point, the conversation turned to agricultural grafting and propagation. If a plant has a favorable mutation (such as producing unusually large fruits or immunity from a certain blight), a farmer could certainly want to have more of that plant. Yet, planting its seed in the ground is playing the genetic lottery. Propagation is the process of cutting the roots of a plant and planting them—this essentially clones the plant, while not hurting the original. In a different scenario, if a farmer has a fruit tree—which takes sometimes 7-30 years to grow—the tree can only produce that one type of fruit. The farmer would have to plant various types of other fruit trees to produce other types of fruit. Grafting gets around that problem: by wearing the tips of branches of fully-developed trees down to their cadmium layer (which carries nutrients throughout the system), then taping together the reproductive part of another type of tree (also worn down to the cadmium layer), the nutrients fully and efficiently flow to the reproductive part and bear fruits/nuts of the type of tree part that was grafted. These techniques are both great ways to genetically experiment with agriculture and easily selectively breed plants.
Dr. Cuonzo and Vita Wallace had also talked to me about how using looser soil in farming allows for water to flow better, which acts as an irrigation system. Using looser soil for farming is also one of the best strategies for helping combat habitat loss for solitary bees, especially for soil-nesters.
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I’ve connected with Ryan Tarpey, who works with Flatbush Cats. While we’re still trying to confirm a date to potentially go trapping, he’s invited me to Flatbush Cats’ holding center on Friday. Here, trapped ferals are housed and fed for the day, and surgically altered the next day. Workers and volunteers continue to provide for the cats until they fully recover, at which point they are released close to their initial trapping site (hence the “R” in “TNR” (Trap-Neuter-Release)). Ryan has told me that he interacts with many students similar to myself, in that they are interested in NYC’s feral cat overpopulation and strategies to curb it. Akin to the work on the farm, my experience at the holding center, along with Ryan’s knowledge of NYC’s feral cat overpopulation, will definitely help to supplement some of my ideas in my whitepaper. I thank Ryan for these opportunities and his education of others about the feral cat crisis, and am very excited to work with him in the coming days! I’d also like to thank Dr. Rachel Adams and Naomi Shrenzel (the representative from Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition (BBAWC)) for being absolutely critical in securing connections and opportunities with me in the feral cat world—such as with Ryan—as well as for their unwavering mentorship and helpful insights.
I’ve spent the rest of the week writing the feral cat portion of my whitepaper, including developing a structure for it. I’m already almost done with it, and I plan to finish it by early next week. On Monday, I visited the Brooklyn Cat Café, and talked with a staff member there about my project and inquired about her experience with feral cats and the café’s role in it (since they are arguably the most well-known feral cat welfare organization in all of NYC). She was interested in my project and encouraged me to continue my ecological analysis.
This week has been going very well, and I can see how my whitepaper will likely shape out. My optimism throughout these 10 weeks hasn’t been in vain, and I’m excited to receive feedback and start on my final presentation. Thank you for reading.