I find that enthusiasm and drive are some of my favorite traits in a person. I love having conversations with people about what makes them excited; you can learn so much from and about them, and it’s often the kind of energy that is really contagious. Here at Bigelow there is no shortage of enthusiastic people who want to teach you what they know and hear what you have to say about it. This place felt intimidating at first, and still does sometimes, but I’ve found that most of the scientists here are easy to approach and learn from. I came here in part because I wasn’t very confident in my ability to participate in the research process; a lot of it seemed foreign and daunting from the outside. It’s definitely easy to feel out of my depth, but I’ve found that not knowing something is seen as more of an opportunity to learn than as a cause for embarrassment. I was surprised at the openness with which even the senior research scientists admit when they don’t know something. Because they are all experts in different areas, I’ll often hear them explaining their own work to each other in terms that even I, a lowly undergraduate, can make sense of. That’s one of the things that’s so cool about Bigelow; there is collaboration across a wide array of disciplines, all of which overlap in unexpected but invaluable ways. At Colby, people are often so focused on their credits and majors and department luncheons that I don’t feel there is very much time for interdisciplinary cooperation, at least in a way that can be directly experienced by students like me in the way I’ve found it here.
This semester I’m working with David Fields. We’re looking at how respiration and grazing rates change in a species of copepod, a small crustacean that is a key player in the carbon cycle and food web here in the Gulf of Maine. We’ve collected them on our research cruises and are going to expose them to different temperature treatments to get a better understanding of how copepods will be affected by warming oceans. We’re also going to pull the copepods’ guts, partnering with Peter Countway, a microbial ecologist here, to get an idea of the bacteria that live there and how they change with temperature. I’m really interested to get such specific knowledge—how many people know how to pull out a copepod gut?—while also participating in a project that I can understand in a broader context. The Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest warming bodies of water on the planet, and understanding how this ecosystem will change in the coming years is important to everyone from the species that live there to the people who depend on it to make a living.
Sage Jordan is a Colby College student in Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science’s semester-in-residence program. This intensive research experience is focused on ocean science within a changing global climate.