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Independent Study in Ornithology Essay

The year is wrapping up and so is my ornithology class… And now we have to evaluate a credit flex that as no scale…. dun dun dun. This way of grading was actually a really good idea because I can actually explain what all I did over this semester and try to have it make a bit of sense (instead of just having diagrams and babblings of bird-stuff). I’ll try my best to stay away from the dry regurgitations of facts and such, but still get the point across that I feel my project should merit an A.

In all seriousness, I did put in a lot of time and effort into this course—even more so than all of my honors classes so far this year. Just the nature of this credit flex shows I really care about what I’m doing. It doesn’t make sense numbers wise for all the effort; even if I received an A+, it still lowers my GPA. I don’t need any extra science credit either. This project was mainly to demonstrate that I will take the initiative to go above and beyond what is required in order to achieve something spectacular. Okay, maybe many do not care one way or another that I pursued a credit flex and would not consider it a particularly spectacular feat, but at least I can look back proudly at all that I have accomplished over the year.

The bulk of my ornithology class was actually following lecture notes from a college professor. Dan Tallman posted almost 120 pages of lecture notes broken into sections. I grouped these sections into manageable topics that all seemed related and proceeded to summarize everything that I was learning in 28 parts. This alone was a painstaking process; it was like reading a textbook and pulling out the facts from each page. If I ran across unfamiliar vocabulary or concepts, I looked them up until I understood them (unlike some students… erm… that just skip the stuff they don’t know and move on just to get the assignment done).

Next I started familiarizing myself with the different topographies of birds. I started with the general body of a bird, then worked into the specifics of wings, beaks, legs, feet, toes, and even claws. Okay, so that’s cool. But then I actually applied what I learned to a real life example—my cockatiel—and put what I learned to use. I combined the different diagrams and types and compared them to those of my bird. Drawings can only get you so far; determining what exactly I was looking at was a great way to test what I knew!

Most ornithology courses require labs along with study material. As a “lab” I dissected an owl pellet (which as I was looking through my folder, I do not think I included a copy—whoops! That is why it’s attached along with a new table of contents). As a second lab, I learned to identify species of North American birds through a quiz provided by Cornell. It showed a ten second video clip of a bird and you would have to type in its name (no multiple choice!!).

Finally, as the cherry on top, I revised a report on ivory-billed woodpeckers I had done as a freshman. The freshman research project was on John Audubon and any topic that related to him; naturally, I chose a bird. I revisited the essay on this woodpecker species and expanded the research on the bird itself (instead of the man). I did not create this course as a GPA booster or to earn a class credit, but because I honestly felt I could learn something from it. This course is a lot like sports—you get out of it only what you put into it. It would have been easy to print off the lecture notes and say I read them all, etc. Instead, I spent a lot of time an effort planning and carrying out this project because it was important to me, and that is why I feel it deserves an A.


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