[Pic left to right: Sophie, Tyler, Cat (me), and Olivia rocking the eye protection on our dusty ride back from our first exam of the semester]
This post is for all you people out there thinking, wow this looks like a lovely vacation! She must be getting such a nice tan.
PSA: It’s not all fun and games out there kiddos.
Ok so it’s pretty fun, and yes I am getting a very nice tan, but we do a lot of pretty awesome work out here too. Most days are actually spent in the classroom with time split between our marine ecology class, resource management class, and environmental policy and socioeconomic values class. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, we dive (weather permitting) and do community engagement. Throughout the week we rotate through cooking and cleaning crews, and student of the day responsibilities. We have homework assignments and exams, in fact, yesterday we had our first exam, and I can now give you the genus and species for over 30 Mangrove community organisms.
When studying and learning it is common to face challenges, and the challenges just look a little bit different here. Sometimes learning involves getting stung repeatedly in the face by a Cassiopea sp. jellyfish while “snorkeling” in 1ft deep water, because you can’t stand without getting sucked knee-deep in mud. Or maybe sometimes it means suffocating in a wetsuit on a boat facing 5ft wind swells as you wonder what puking in a regulator would be like. Last night, learning meant staying out on a sharking research boat till midnight on Valentine’s Day, making bad puns about being a master at bating hooks, all the while catching zero sharks.
Challenges and all, there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be right now. The complete emersion of this program gives us the academic tools to explore the world in a new and incredible way. Every day I am amazed by the welcoming and respectful actions of the students, community, and staff who live and work here. Just this morning I got the grandest of welcomes from a hawksbill turtle who swam over, so close that I could have (theoretically) reached out and touched him, and said hello.
[Pic left to right: Olivia, Tess, and Camila baiting hooks for the sharks that never came]