By William Fajzel

It may have taken six weeks, several brainstorms, and a lot of discussion, but we are now on our way with our Earth system science research project. This semester we will be focusing on the Saint Lawrence River basin, looking at how seasonal patterns such as temperature, precipitation, and ice cover have changed and how they might change in the future. Pinpointing a topic is a lot of work, but it is definitely rewarding!

Our SWOT analysis for “seasonality”. This process was incredibly helpful for making our final decision for a topic.

For most of us it was our first experience with this side of science. Usually our research topics are chosen for us, or we write essays on previous research done by other people. This time we got in the driver’s seat, and at first it was daunting.

Natalya and Jeff, our supervising professors, started us off with a research theme: the Saint Lawrence River basin. (A quick side note – despite living within walking distance of the river, I had no idea that one-quarter of all the world’s available freshwater drains through it!) Our first task was a brainstorm. At first it was something we dreaded, as our inhibition got the better of us. Nobody wanted to say something that sounded silly or irrelevant. What we quickly found out was that at this stage nothing is silly or irrelevant.

Once we had grouped our flurry of ideas into 4 groups, we did a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and it makes you think critically about all those crazy brainstorm ideas. The goal is to eliminate the dead ends and focus on the most promising topics.

This time we got in the driver’s seat, and at first it was daunting.

After scouring the web to see what data we could find for each topic, we voted on our preferred one. The topic that won the day was “Seasonality and Climate Change.” Now that we’ve selected our research project and submitted our proposal, the time has come to start downloading our temperature, precipitation, and ice cover data.