Phase II will introduce each student to the primary literature of a chosen field, enable each student to identify an interesting research question and to design a study to address this question. With faculty help, each student formalizes his or her ideas into a written proposal. Both fellow students and faculty then serve to review the proposals in a panel format. The goal of the review process is to help each student improve his or her project. We have found that involving students in a peer-review process provides a valuable opportunity to learn the essential scientific skills of constructive criticism. Peer-review and the panel process also help to establish an intellectual partnership among students and to familiarize all of our residents with the diversity of research that will be carried out in the summer.
During Phase III students conduct original and independent field research guided by their research proposal. Students meet routinely with their advisors in order to discuss project progress, and to gain skills in data analysis and interpretation. All students participate in a weekly seminar series in which ecologists and evolutionary biologists from other institutions will present their research. Pot-luck dinners after the seminars provide the students with an informal atmosphere to meet and learn from our speakers. Other activities during Phase III include one or two-day field trips.
Phase IV is an intensive period for both students and faculty where data are analyzed, interpreted, and summarized in the form of both oral and written reports. Each student gives a 15 minute oral presentation on their projects as part of the traditional summer "Research Forum" attended by all resident researchers, invited guests, and visitors to Blandy Farm. The Forum is also used as a "mixer" to get students together with members of our general public, especially those active in the Foundation of the State Arboretum, our public support organization. Every effort is made to publish papers resulting from these research activities.