“dog lover” kind of research

One of the requirements to graduate with Honors includes an Honors Capstone project. This semester I’m completing mine, so I thought I’d talk about those this week. The Capstone project is essentially a research project that you design and run (with the help of a professor, of course). The really great thing about that is that you can choose whatever you’re interested in to research. It doesn’t even have to be within your field! It’s also as intensive as you make it so it can fit pretty easily into schedules. Now, I know when I use the words “capstone” and “research” in the same sentence images of lab coats, pipettes, and Erlmeyer flasks dance through your head. While some people do their research in labs, keep in mind that there are a lot of different forms of research that suit everyone’s interests. I’m really not a lab person, so my project doesn’t involve one!
I’m going to nerd out for a bit and talk about my project. First, a bit of background knowledge is appropriate. I have wanted to open an animal shelter since my freshman year of high school and this is what I’m going to college for. Last year I took a class about animal behavior. As the semester came to a close, the professor told us about an opportunity to do research projects with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa in Des Moines. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity as it was the perfect fit for me! A year later I am now going down to the animal Rescue League completing my research. I am looking at how giving dogs in the holding area environmental enrichment (i.e.: toys) impacts the development of repetitive behaviors and adoption rate when they move up to adoption. In lay man’s terms, I give dogs toys, observe their behavior, and note how long it takes for them to get adopted. Not only do I get to hang out with dogs every day, but I’m meeting a lot of people in my field by being at the ARL. No matter what happens with the results, the opportunity to design, coordinate, and run my own research project as an undergraduate student (not to mention the networking ties) is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will definitely make me stand out from the crowd.

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