It's been over a year since my last post and a lot has happened. I'll recap the last year shortly. But first, an update on where I am located and doing... Three weeks ago, I moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to start a new career as a Graduate Assistant at Louisiana State University working with Dr. Reagan Errera. I am working in the School of Renewable Natural Resources and studying phytoplankton. I haven't solidified my specific research project yet, but next summer (2018), I'll be heading to Tofo, Mozambique to work with a non-profit organization called All Out Africa to study the effects of harmful algal blooms (phytoplankton) on the ecosystem and marine megafauna like whalesharks and manta rays. More to come as my knowledge of my research progresses!
Now to recap the past year! The last year has surely been a crazy and busy one! I finished off my final year of undergraduate studies in Juneau, Alaska at the University of Alaska Southeast. I knew I was set on going to graduate school at some point, so I kicked off the year with intense studying for my GRE (Graduate Record Examination), which was a kicker, but I did well! Then came the actual applying to graduate programs and jobs... That was just as time consuming! It was hard enough trying to work, do research, keep up my grades, sleep, AND apply for all these opportunities on top of that.
I seemed to be doing something right! I was invited to serve in the Philippines with the PeaceCorps as a Coastal Resource Management Volunteer. I was also flown down to Alabama to visit the Dauphin Island Sea Lab facilities. The same week of that travel, I flew up to Anchorage for the first time with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program for their annual banquet. The speaker at the event was, for the first time in the history of the event, a biologist, an oceanographer in fact! It just happened to be Sylvia Earle, the woman who inspired me to fall in love with the ocean in the first place. So of course, I got to meet her! She signed my book, and of course I got a picture with her! She is the most inspiring woman alive today. She has the ability to move people to care about our life support system. I only hope that one day I can master her ability to move people the way she does with such grace and passion.
I ended up withdrawing my PeaceCorps invitation because deep down I knew I wanted to pursue graduate school. I was offered a one-year position working with AmeriCorps in Connecticut teaching STEM courses through marine adventure programs and I thought this opportunity would be perfect because it would give me the ability to focus on finding and applying to graduate programs. However, the day after my interview for this position, I saw a posting for a graduate position at LSU that I had the qualifications for and as any college student procrastinating on homework, I spent a few hours and prepared my application for the position, which closed the following day. I sent it in that night without anyone reviewing it (remember that I had been sending out these application materials pretty regularly and I often don't hear anything back so I didn't think much of it). The very next day, Dr. Errera emails me back asking to interview me the next day, so I set up a time and asked a fellow graduate student if I could borrow her quiet office to conduct the skype interview in. I spent a few hours doing some research, went through with the interview, and was told I would hear back within the next week.
The next week, I was officially offered the AmeriCorps position, but I decided to wait to give an answer until I received the rejection letter from the last minute LSU graduate program. That week seemed to go by very slow... It had been over a week since my interview and i was then pretty sure a rejection email would come any day. On Friday, as I was walking into a seminar, a ping on my phone went off. As I reached to turn the volume off, I noticed it was the email I had been waiting for from Dr. Errera. I decided to get it over with and read it. To my surprise, it wasn't a rejection letter! I was offered a Master's Graduate Assistant position at LSU! I immediately left the classroom to hug a friend and call my mom. My hard work had paid off. All I needed to do was finish the last two weeks of class and get the official piece of paper. But I did that too! I got the most expensive piece of paper in my entire life... To celebrate, I wanted one last picture with Spike the whale.
While I was trying to work all this out, I had also been trying to figure out my summer plans. I forgot to mention that my parents moved. With this, comes a new farm property and I figured my parents could use some help around their new farm over the summer, so I decided I wanted to move back to Minnesota for a few months. Well, I needed a job too... Luckily they had moved super close to a state park I grew up visiting as a kid, so I had been corresponding with some of the management in efforts to land a job with the state park. After many hurdles, I ended up securing a temporary position working for the DNR at Mystery Cave as an Interpretive Naturalist. Honestly, I went into the job knowing it would be temporary so I didn't expect much out of it. As a marine biologist, it was different and sometimes challenging working with geologists, terrestrial biologists, anthropologists, and environmental scientists, but I was pushed to learn more than I would have working somewhere else with less diversity. Now that it's over, I will say that working with the staff at the MNDNR was one of the most rewarding experiences out of the many jobs that I can't even count anymore. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest goodbyes I've ever had to say. Below is a picture of a small group of us that went caving in an undeveloped part of the cave.
So there you have it. All caught up. Now comes my life in Baton Rouge, LA. Grad school won't be easy, but hopefully I'll update every so often. More about my research will be coming soon!