Honors Summer Snapshots: Jessica

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2017 summer routines via photos. Jessica Riojas is participating in a summer research program through the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Michigan:

Hi! My name is Jessica Riojas and I am going to be a junior in Environmental Science with a minor in Geographic Information Science. This summer I am working as a research assistant in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Michigan! I am working in the Tibbetts Lab, where I am researching the social intelligence and memory of three different species of paper wasps. You can check out Dr. Tibbetts’ lab website here: http://sites.lsa.umich.edu/tibbetts-lab. I get to spend my work days handling, caretaking, and training wasps! I am absolutely loving my job – I mean… how many people get say they are wasp trainers? I am also presenting a poster at the end of the summer on my research findings, which I suppose will be good practice for my future honors project… 😉

I spend my days here in the Kraus Natural Science Building!


This type of wasp is a Polistes dominulus. We train all of our wasps using negative reinforcement mazes and it is so amazing how they can learn! Wasps are so smart!


In the wild, paper wasps use chewed up wood fibers from trees and their saliva to create their paper nests. In the lab, we give our wasps pieces of construction paper to build their nests – the results are absolutely fascinating!


Another really exciting part of working with wasps are when workers emerge from the nests! You can see a worker here getting ready to come out into the world!! New worker emergences are fun to watch because the workers are always a little loopy for their first few minutes outside of the nest.


In addition to the Polistes dominula, I also get to work with Polistes fuscatus and Polistes metricus. These wasps tend to be a bit bigger and more aggressive. This one in particular in the photo is a fuscatus. These wasps awesome because they are able to recognize the faces of other wasps!

As another part of my job, I also had to collect wasps out in the wild in the beginning of the summer! We would go to different parks and apartment complexes and search for and collect wasps with their nests.

In addition to working in the Tibbetts Lab, I also have gotten to do a lot of exploring in Ann Arbor and other various places in Michigan such as the University of Michigan Biological Station, Battle Creek, Warren Dunes State Park, and Flint.


One of my favorite places was the U of M Biological Station up north. I got to stay there for a couple of days and learn of a few research projects they have going on and take some tours of the station. The station is right on Douglas Lake, where I got to take a couple ice baths after morning trail running!


I get to start off every day with a run before work, and thankfully the Huron River goes through Ann Arbor so I always have a beautiful view on my runs!! The river is great for swimming and kayaking too!

I am loving it here up in Ann Arbor, but I am so excited to come back to ISU in August! I hope you all are having a wonderful summer, and thanks for reading!!!


One comment on “Honors Summer Snapshots: Jessica

  1. […] their 2017 summer routines via photos. Brady Nahkala spent the summer in Michigan (similar to his FHP co-leader Jessica) honing his research skills and his passion for sand […]

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