UC Davis undergraduate, 4th year
Major: Environmental Science and Management
This week, I had the fun yet daunting task of analyzing a primary research paper and presenting the findings to the lab, while utilizing the methods section to act out the experimental design with my fellow Green Care coworkers. The paper, linked here, titled “Post-Operative Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy in Pediatric Surgery,” presents information regarding the physiological benefits of animal-assisted therapy for children in hospitals directly following a surgical operation. The researchers ultimately found lower pain scales and greater alertness following anesthesia awakening in the experimental group which received animal-assisted sessions following surgery, compared to the control group which received standard care post-operation. So basically, animal therapy rocks!
The task of presenting this to the lab was no small feat- the paper is quite long and contains a significant amount of academic language that can be difficult to break down. But after reading through it a couple of times, the main goals of the paper became clearer and the scientific lingo felt more accessible. Once I had broken it all down mentally, I compiled the information into a Powerpoint presentation that felt informative and helped with the compartmentalization and visualization of the methods and results.
To further help with visualizing, we went a step further by having my fellow researchers “act out” parts of the methods section, some playing children in the hospital awakening post-surgery to a dog (which was played by Becca’s foster kitten), some playing children awakening in the standard control group, others playing a doctor, and my headband playing the role of an EEG (electroencephalogram) device in order to collect brainwave data. While it was silly and laughable at the time, Becca brought up a very valuable point that despite all the goofiness, we truly did have a better understanding of the experimental setup.
On top of the valuable skills that come from the regular presentations we do in the lab, reading this paper greatly helped me figure out how to keep my own research design simple. One of the challenging things in research is creating a methods section that isn’t too complicated, such that the elements under study are not clouded by other variables. This experiment did just this: two groups, each going about the same procedures, yet one has a cute Golden Retriever present, and the other doesn’t. While I am still honing in on the research question I personally hope to answer, it is inspiring to see an experiment geared towards animal therapy in a simplistic and scientifically sound way. The process of designing an experiment from scratch can seem daunting, but seeing just how simple and streamlined it can be feels promising and tangible.
Overall, the process of this research and presentation was invaluable to our goals as a lab, giving us a deeper understanding of precisely what goes into animal therapy research and helping us find ways to apply existing research methods to our novel Green Care work. Even if that includes acting out the methods section and laughing along the way, the tasks we are given are to strengthen our own personal analyzing abilities, as well as our Green Care work as a team.
Green Care Blog
Here you can find blog posts from each Green Care Lab intern. We'll be talking about our research process, the benefits of Green Care therapy, and sharing pictures of our work. Follow along with us!