This Is It, My Last In Depth Post

Throughout the process of this project, there have been many paths I could have taken. There are three mains paths that I see I could have taken; the first path was  learning from a teacher that I knew who knows sign language but doesn’t teach it or use it in their day to day lives. The second path was taking a class and learning with other beginners from someone who is used to teaching but it wasn’t one on one. The third path was learning from a family friend who is part of the deaf community and uses sign language everyday. I think I chose the best path which was the third one; learning from someone who depended on sign language for their day to day life gave them a deeper understanding of the language and made my learning more in depth. Learning from someone who wasn’t submerged into the community wouldn’t have gotten me to delve deeper into my work and learning through a class wouldn’t have gotten me the one on one work I needed and wouldn’t have let me focus on what I wanted to learn.

For my final project I plan on presenting on the stage. I will be signing on stage while there are translations on a PowerPoint behind me. on the PowerPoint it will have one side with the English translations, and the other with the ASL translation. It will just be a brief overview on what I have learned, sharing just the topics and no examples. After my presentation I will try my best to not speak if I know how to sign it and I will allow people to come up to me and ask me simple questions. Hopefully that will give people a better understanding on what I have learned.

In Depth #5 – Insects and Justice

Since the last blog post, we’ve had spring break and it’s been a week since we’ve come back to school! I wasn’t able to attend lectures during spring break, but I did go to a class before and was able to obtain the content for the classes I missed, so I studied up on my own time. When I first began attending the lectures, we started off by learning about blow flies and the insects themselves. Now, the content has been moving forward towards applying our knowledge. We’re learning more about how forensic entomology can be used for not only estimating time of death, but how it can be used for other purposes like telling if the body has been moved or for drug/toxin identification.

I found it the most interesting that forensic entomology could be used for drug/toxin identification. If there isn’t enough flesh left to test the body for toxins, maggots can be used! Maggots bio-accumulate toxins, which means that by examining the maggots left on the body, traces of drugs or toxins can be found. So if there’s toxins or drugs in a victim’s body, the larvae/maggots feed on the tissue that contains those toxins. While the larvae eats the tissue, it accumulates the toxins from the victims tissue into it’s own body. So by examining the larvae, we can identify the toxins or drugs that were in the body! Who knew that insects could be used for such a wide area of purposes, and not just for estimating time of death?

While I wasn’t able to record a transcript of a conversation with my mentor, as I am listening to a lecture and unfortunately, not having a conversation, I was able to identify different hats I had to put on while I was listening to the lecture! The hats that I feel I put on the most were the white hat, red hat, and black hat.

White hat: While listening to the lectures from my mentor, I’m gaining information. However, while I’m listening to lectures, there’s information I’m gaining and there’s also information that I already have. While listening, sometimes the information I get contradicts the information I already know, or I think I know. For example, when my professor gives examples of when they’ve gone to testify at court, I’m always surprised at the difference of what being a forensic scientist is like in reality, compared to what I knew it to be. So by using the white hat, I’m able to clarify and further understand the reality of being a forensic entomologist.

Red hat: Sometimes I get confused. While listening to the lectures, I’m receiving a lot of information, but the feeling I get from it isn’t always the best. For example, when my mentor mentions case studies and talks about how there isn’t always sufficient information concerning specific species of blow flies, I get frustrated and confused. Forensic entomology is a very useful area that’s helps make it so justice is enacted rightfully and accurately. So why isn’t there a lot of data about different blow flies and their development? If this data is going to be useful in making sure there aren’t wrongful convictions, why aren’t people running around trying to get this information? These were the questions that came along with the frustration that bubbled up within me while I was listening to the lecture. Luckily, the black hat helped clear it up.

Black hat: While listening to the lecture move on, and throughout the next few classes, I realized that there were legitimate reasons why there wasn’t enough data. Firstly, obtaining data isn’t the easiest process. It takes time and effort. Secondly, forensic entomology hasn’t been around for the longest time. While data is being compiled, there still isn’t a lot of data accumulated quite yet. Thirdly, while people are working towards obtaining data, not everyone in the world is a forensic entomologist. Thinking critically using the black hat and combining it with the information that the white hat provided to me, I was able to come to a better understanding about the field of forensic entomology.

Caitlin and I have begun brainstorming ideas for our final In Depth presentation. So far, we’re planning on having 2 mock victims/bodies where we can replicate how they would look and different conditions they would be in. I’m also hoping to have an area where I can talk about forensic entomology and about the different techniques used!

Sign Language – In Depth Post #4

“English and ASL are two completely different languages. You would be able to explain something in 20 minutes in ASL that would take an hour to verbally explain.” -Abby Sienko. In my last meeting with my mentor she brought up a lot of points on how you can’t directly translate from English to sign language. These points came up because I had written my script for my presentation and when she was helping me translate it, the signs came out very different. For example: when you say “for my project I learned sign language” it translates into “MY PROJECT I LEARNED WHAT? SIGN LANGUAGE.” this is an example that shows how there is no direct translation between the two and the reason for that is there are no ‘to be’ verbs in sign language.

During this meeting I think the top three hats that I used were the red hat, the black hat, and the green hat; I also think that these are the hats that my mentor used. I used the red hat when I was reading the translation my mentor did of the script I had written. I had the feeling of uncertainty because with the new translation I was going to have to change the layout for my final presentation. When that feeling on uncertainty came up, I switch into my black hat and thought about how I could adapt my presentation to fit this new translation. Then finally when I had a new general idea of what I could do I asked my mentor if she thought it was a good idea; my mentor is very good with pushing me to problem solve but helping me along the way, so she asks questions to get me thinking. Now I have a better idea of what I am doing for the visual part of my presentation and my goal for my next meeting is to have some of it done and show my mentor.

In Depth #4 – Temperature and Blow Fly Analysis

In Depth is moving along steadily! After a two week break from the SFU lectures, due to their exam week, Week 8 of classes began. This class, we learned about factors that affect blow fly analysis and focused specifically on temperature.

One thing I found particularly intriguing in today’s class was the fact that temperature can heavily affect the analysis of a blow fly in a forensic case. During the lecture, there were some examples of cases shared, and I was surprised to hear the big impact it had on investigations. For example, during a case where the temperature of the crime scene couldn’t be calculated, the report had to note that specifically and say that the results could vary widely, due to the lack of data during the investigation. The professor talked a lot about going to court and how writing reports are very important! The court aspect caught my attention immediately, as law has always been something I’ve been interested in.

Working towards having a beautiful mind is still a challenge. The aspects of having a beautiful mind focus on situations where you’re a part of a conversation. It states that without the aspects of having a beautiful mind, the “other person might as well be giving a lecture” (3-4). Unfortunately, my mentor is quite literally giving a lecture. Of the two areas, listening and asking questions, listening was more prominent during the lecture. I don’t ask too many questions during the lecture, as I am too busy trying to process all of the information at once! But, I do have some questions for my mentor concerning my In Depth final project.

Listening: During the lecture, all I do is listen! I do my best to synthesize what I hear and write notes. During the lectures, it’s very interesting because my mentor speaks a lot about her own experiences. From her stories, I can infer some of her values and see from a different point of view. Some of the experiences she’s spoken about are her times at court and writing reports. She talks about how it’s important to write caveats in the reports to make sure you can point them out during court and so that she doesn’t get questioned about the validity of her report. From this, I learned that forensic entomology isn’t just science. I opened my eyes to the different perspective that it’s involved with so many different branches like the law and security. Before, I thought of forensic entomology as studying bugs all day. Now, I am seeing from a broader, more informed perspective where I can see how forensic entomology reaches out to different subject areas.

Questioning: Questioning is difficult. As I’m listening in on a university level lecture, it’s hard enough to keep up with the content! However, questioning is something that I do in my daily life, during school and such. In addition, my questions are often answered during the lectures themselves! For example, one question I had was ‘how exactly do we calculate the time of death if the relationship between blow fly development and temperature is indeed linear?’ As my mentor continued on with her lecture, there were a few slides dedicated to answering this question. I learned that there are two parts to finding the time of death or minimal time of death. The first part is using lab data to calculate how many thermal units or degree days it takes for the certain blow fly species to reach a certain stage. Then, the second part is using the accumulated degree days and the temperatures at the crime scene to find the number of days it would take by utilizing reverse summation. The answer to my question was a lot simpler than I had realized!

Throughout my future lectures, I’m planning on asking more questions, especially as the time to begin the final In Depth project is fast approaching. Listening is something I’m able to often, but questioning is something I have to work on!

Sign Language – In Depth Post #3

I finally got the chance to meet with my mentor over the weekend. My mentor wanted to get me into what it is like when using sign language in most environments; she did not speak, she only communicated to me through sign language and typing things out on her laptop for me to read. She said “when you are in a deaf environment, you aren’t going to talk because it’s not like they’ll hear you, so [she] wanted to immerse me in that type of environment,” which is why she wasn’t talking. Our lesson consisted of learning signs, how to start a conversation, how to ask and answer questions, and the history of sign language.

When meeting with my mentor, I was using method #2, ask for clarification whenever you are unclear or in doubt about something the mentor tells you or shows you, quite often as I was getting lost throughout most of the lesson.

My mentor has been amazing and sent me the full document of everything that she went over in our lesson. I will attach a copy of that document below so you can see everything that I have learned so far.


In Depth #3 – Life Cycle of a Blow Fly

Currently, In Depth is going smoothly. I have been continuously attending classes on forensic entomology at SFU, while Caitlin has been going to classes concerning forensic science. This week, we’ve begun learning about the life cycle of a blow fly and will continue to learn about how the blow fly relates to forensic science.

One thing I’ve found interesting in class, is that while estimating time of death, you don’t give a maximum (at least my mentor doesn’t). I was confused at first, but as my mentor continued her lesson, it made a lot of sense. Insects tell you a lot about the body and the stage of life they are at can often tell you how long they’ve been on that body. However, there is a time span where the insects have NOT yet reached the body and there is no way to know how much time has passed. Additionally, I learned that there are many variables that can significantly impact the estimation. Rain, temperature, and whether the victim has been physically exerting themselves before their death, all play a role in estimating the time of death and can heavily change the result if they are not factored into observations.

Working towards having a beautiful mind has once again proved difficult for me. As I’ve mentioned before, the aspects of having a beautiful mind focus on scenarios where you’re a part of a conversation. In the book it states that without the aspects of having a beautiful mind, the “other person might as well be giving a lecture” (3-4). Unfortunately, my mentor is quite literally giving a lecture. However, I did feel aspects of the 4 tips below while attending lectures and if not, I’ve definitely felt these in day to day conversations.


#2 to ask for clarification whenever you are unclear or in doubt about something the mentor tells you or shows you.

During the lectures, people in the class often raise their hands and ask clarifying questions or questions that lead to other topics. While listening to my mentor answer these questions, the concept becomes much clearer to me, even if I’ve thought that I understand it. After class, I’ve asked clarifying questions as well. From these experiences, it is evident that questions are important to making sure one’s learning and understanding is solid and comprehensive, not only during conversations, but during classes and lectures as well!


#3 to support a point your mentor makes with additional facts, figures, evidence etc.

When presenting lectures, my mentor always backs up their points with evidence, whether it be with specific cases or data. This evidence makes the point easier to understand. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to support my mentor’s points with evidence of my own, as I don’t have much previous learning about the specific subject. However, in conversations with other people, when I find an example that matches with their point, it becomes much clearer and easier to understand, as I’m presenting something that I already have previous knowledge of.


#5 to share a personal story that illustrates the conversation topic.

It’s definitely a struggle to find a personal story that aligns with the topic of forensic entomology. I did hear a lot of personal stories from my mentor, but I myself have not worked on blow flies in a lab or examined a dead body! However, in my personal life, if a conversation topic is something I have previously experienced, I can relate with the topic on a personal level, making me much more engaged in the conversation. For example, running in the rain. If I recall a personal experience of running in the rain, I have firsthand experience I can speak about and add to the conversation.


#10 to modify an idea to make it more acceptable to yourself and to make it stronger or more practical.

Once again, it’s hard to modify an idea if I don’t know much about the topic! If my mentor is speaking about a research method that they prefer, I don’t have the sufficient background knowledge to step in and say I would modify a certain aspect of the research process to make it fit for me. However, I have used this tip many times! Whether it be in research, where I take a method and alter it to fit my situation or during a conversation where someone presents an idea and I add onto it, changing and modifying ideas is something I do often. For example, during adventure trip planning or leadership event planning, we always present ideas to each other. During the planning process, we take those ideas and build upon them, adding suggestions and omitting certain aspects to make the idea grander than before.


Hopefully, when Caitlin and I begin to prep our final presentation, I will be able to utilize these tips in conversations with my mentor! For now, I must first gain the base knowledge needed to create this final presentation.

In Depth #2 – Livor Mortis & Saponification

It’s already week three of In Depth! Caitlin and I have met with our mentor once so far. We’ve attended lectures at SFU on forensic entomology and forensic science. Caitlin and I have decided on a system where she attends the Thursday classes on forensic science and I attend the Friday lectures on forensic entomology. We’ve shared our notes and have slowly begun assimilating the background knowledge required to learn our skill.

In the forensic entomology classes I’ve been attending, we’ve gone over the general applications of entomology, how insects relate to time of death, the processes of a body after death, and a little bit about insects themselves. According to my mentor, the next few classes will be about the insect life cycle and then we will move onto case studies.

Some things I’ve found particularly intriguing is Livor Mortis and Saponification. Livor Mortis is when the heart stops pumping your blood, causing all of your blood to fall to the lowest points of your body. These areas turn dark red and the blood clots, or dries in that area. However, let’s say you were sitting when you died and stayed in that position for a while after your death. The bottom of your thighs would have pressure on them, constricting the vessels there. This means that blood cannot flow there. So while other parts of your body will be dark red, the bottom of your thighs will be white, due to the lack of blood there. Using this, we can often see the position that someone has been in after their death!

Saponification happens when the body has been in a moist and anaerobic area. Due to saponification, the skin begins to have a weird texture, which my mentor described as ‘feta cheese and wet putty’. However, when the skin dries, it turns chalky. The way water impacts the body after death is intriguing! When we stay in water, the only noticeable change is the wrinkling of skin in our fingertips. Saponification is something I had never heard of before.

Concerning the three aspects of having a beautiful mind, I found it difficult to do so. In the book it states that without these three aspects, the “other person might as well be giving a lecture” (3-4). The problem here is, my mentor is quite literally giving a lecture. I can’t agree, disagree, or differ with her, as her lectures are filled with facts and scientific information, not opinions or suggestions. However, what I can do, is find which suggestions in the book that I think I need the most work on.


“Genuinely seek to find points of agreement in what the other person is saying”

The key word that stood out to me in this sentence, was genuinely. In arguments or even during simple conversations, if someone has a differing opinion, I will look for a way to agree with them. However, even while I am trying to find things I agree with, my heart isn’t fully into the task. I don’t want to agree, which causes me to put less effort into finding similar points. So this is something I definitely have to keep in mind!


“You may need to point out errors of logic or to show that a conclusion does not necessarily follow from what went before”

I recently participated in a debate competition, so disagreeing is definitely on my mind! When disagreeing with people, sometimes I find it hard to explain why I disagree. It becomes frustrating when the other person can’t see the very obvious flaw in their logic. However, this flaw may not be obvious to them. I have to work on explaining and pointing out where the other person seems to be incorrect, instead of expecting someone to see the flaws in their argument, just because I’ve said they are incorrect.


“Seek to reconcile the differences and then agree to differ on what cannot be reconciled”

I often have a competitive and aggressive mindset where I make a conversation about differing opinions into a debate. I need to keep in mind that opinions can coexist, and that two people can have two different opinions and views on a single thing.


All of the above tips to having a beautiful mind are things I need to keep in mind throughout my daily life. Hopefully, as Caitlin and I begin to build our final presentation for In Depth, I will be able to utilize these tips in discussions with my mentor!

Sign Language – In Depth Post #2

Start up weeks are always slow, and I haven’t been able to meet up with my mentor yet, my progress has been slow. Since I haven’t met with my mentor face to face it has been a bit hard to incorporate the first three aspects of How to Have a Beautiful Mind, because there has been no sort of disagreement or difference in opinion yet.  I have been able to incorporate one of the three aspects though and that is how to agree. When making plans to meet up with my mentor through her busy schedule I was able to use guideline #7, see if there are any circumstances in which the other person’s views might be right; originally I asked to meet up twice a week for about an hour each because I didn’t want to take up too much of her time. When she later responded she said “Though I understand this is an assignment, two hours a month is not a lot of time to practice,” and that we could meet up more then twice a month. I completely agreed with her in this situation and saw how her views were right. I didn’t think we needed to meet up more then twice a month but for a longer period of time, so now we have agreed our sessions together will be about two hours long and if we need more or less time we will discuss when the time comes.

Though I haven’t had my mentors guidance yet, I have been able to use other sources to expand my knowledge. I have memorized random signs such as apple, mom and dad, please, thank you, sorry, and many others. I have also memorized the alphabet and numbers 1-10. Now even though I have memorized random signs, they don’t do me much good without knowing how to put them into sentences. When I meet up with my mentor she will teach me more commonly used signs for conversations and help start getting those signs into sentences. I am ready for what is to come and excited to delve deeper into the world of sign language.

Intro to sign language

For in depth this year, I am going to learn American sign language (ASL). There are many different types of sign language but ASL is the most commonly used in Canada and the United States. Sign language is a visually conveyed language that is used for the deaf who cannot hear auditory languages. While some deaf do learn to read lips and speak, sign language is the easiest option of communication. Signs are specific hand moments that represent a word, one wrong movement and you could be saying a completely different word. Even though sign language is portrayed through movements of the body, it should not be confused with body language.

I am wanting to learn this because even though it won’t come up as frequently as being able to speak another language, you never know when you encounter someone who is unable to hear and/ or speak and being able to communicate with them would be an amazing experience. I also have an idea for a career path and with that career path I may need to know how to communicate with people who only know sign language. Also, personally if ASL could be a class and count as a language like French or Spanish, I would definitely take that as my language course.


In-depth Finale


I can’t believe in-depth is already coming to a close. It feels like only days ago that I was presenting my project for grade nine, and here I am doing it for the last time as a grade ten. Although I am extremely excited to show what I have accomplished over the past term for in-depth, I’m also sad to know that this is the final big TALONS project I get to participate in. That being said, I’m already thinking about how much fun it’ll be coming back as an alumni, and seeing all of the to-be grade ten’s in-depths, and the new grade nines as well.

Over the course of the year, I have learned how to make melodies, how to relate notes to songs, how to manipulate the tempo of a song to convey feeling through music and not only through lyrics. I would say that this year’s in-depth is ultimately a success. I’m very pleased with how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time, and I’m not planning on slowing down anytime soon.

For my presentation, I have decided to team up with Val. Since we’re both doing music for our in-depths, it just makes sense to make a track and present together so we have double the time on stage. In addition to the technical benefits, I’m also excited to see what she’s learned through her in-depth (and vice-versa) and how we use and apply those skills to the making of our song. However, instead of using our entire presentation time to present our song, we have decided to use half of the time (1:30) to quickly show some of the production and thinking process, hopefully to provide insight on how making music isn’t easy as it seems (I too have learned this through my in-depth), use the other half of our time to present a snippet of our song. I am hoping that I will be able to transfer some of the skills I had learned through last year’s in-depth (film production) to help us create the most time-effective and concise way of showing our process in 1:30. In addition, I will be using my previous skills of graphic design to help design an album cover and aesthetic for our song.

The song that I have written (and Val is producing) is called Cornerstone, and focuses on someone not keeping their promises and learning your self-worth. The main melody follows an this pattern (using non-traditional chord shapes):

D C# F# E – C# E D / D C# F# E – C# E C# / D C# F# E  – C# E D – D G E

[Note: Non-traditional chord shapes just means that the way I position my hand on the guitar doesn’t play a full chord/isn’t common in songs.] It’s an up-beat song with a life lesson sort of theme (if that makes any sense) and also features synthetic as well as organic (real-life) instruments.

Since this is my first song ever, I’m really nervous (but also excited) to hear what everyone thinks. Playing/performing someone else’s song in front of an audience is one thing, but sharing your emotions and being vulnerable to a large group of people, most I don’t even know, is a little big scary.

Now that I’m thinking about it, this experience is a whole whirlwind of emotions. I’m excited to make new music, nervous to share it, and ultimately sad to see my last year of TALONS pass me by so quickly. I remember being at orientation in grade nine, and now my journey is almost complete. Where did the time go?