East West XXVII Class Experiences
Complied by Sonia Ahrabi-Nejad, EW XXVII
This week marks the end of the undergraduates’ time in the Three Seas Program, and the graduate students only have one week-long ethics class left with our Marine Ecology professor from Nahant, Matt Bracken. As the final blog post I wanted to capture the best parts of this year to leave us all with fond memories.
Nahant Massachusetts was a great location to start the year, because we were still close to Boston and were having a normal class schedule which included Marine Ecology, Marine Invertebrate Zoology, Marine Botany, Experimental Design, and Diving Research Methods. We were introduced to quadrats and transects, respiration chambers, and the seawater system. We learned how to dive while holding a slate, a quadrat, a catch bag, and counting organisms all while battling the currents in a few feet of visibility.
Our second destination was the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Bocas del Torro, Panama. Now our classes met every day and changed every two weeks, and included Coral Biology, Fishes, Tropical Terrestrial Ecology, Ocean and Coastal Processes, and Coral Reef Ecology. Recently while watching an old James Bond I was able to identify the Caribbean fishes (Chaetodon striatus, Ocyurus chrysurus, etc.) and the corals (Acropora palmata, Montastraea faveolata, etc.). Diving in the warm water was a welcomed relief from Nahant, and there were so many fish to swim around with. While in Panama we climbed to the top of the highest peak to see both the Pacific and the Caribbean. The hike was strenuous but the view at the top, and the sense of accomplishment was worth it. We had day trips to a cacao plantation, a banana plantation, and a zip lining trip through the forest canopy! There were dock parties and of course Carnival was amazing. Walking to class amongst brightly colored flowers and tropical birds was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island, Washington was our final destination with the program. The classes we took were Marine Conservation, Marine Birds and Mammals, and Molecular Ecology. We hoped back into the cold water to create maps and explore the new ecosystem. We travelled down the San Juan Channel surveying birds and mammals, and took a semi-successful whale watch trip. This portion had a great mix of terrestrial, marine, and lab related work to satisfy everyone’s preferences.
Now that we are at the end of the year it is safe to say that it was very successful, and I know we will all separate being better scientists. I am especially glad that this year went so well, because I cam to Northeastern because of the Three Seas Program. The classes were hard, but succeeding proved that I could make marine biology my career. I look back on this year with a great sense of accomplishment, and I can’t wait to hear how next years class will do!
If you need more convincing that this was a great year read below where the rest of my class has shared their experiences! Sonia Ahrabi-Nejad
“A year ago, when I applied to this program, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. That one decision changed my life in a way I never, in my wildest dreams, thought was possible. I’ve experienced, learned, and seen things people only dream of.” Stina McKenna
“The Three Seas Program has been the most amazing experience of my life! It doesn’t get much better than traveling the world with your friends while learning from some of the most prominent scientists in marine biology.” Robert Murphy
“This program was definitely an interesting and priceless experience. It wasn’t always what we were all expecting but I think everyone learned a lot in many different forms. We learned in lectures and by doing field work but we also learned about different cultures and got to experience new places. In Panama especially I was able to take a step back and experience something entirely new and different for me. Overall, although this program had its ups and down, I hold the experience I had at an extremely high value.” Karissa Sciacca
“Three Seas changed my life. Over the course of this year I evolved from a schedule obsessed control freak to someone who goes with the flow and enjoys spontaneous opportunities to gain knowledge. I learned a lot about myself while learning marine science. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but I would do it again in a heart beat.” Maggie Hawruk
“I came to this program for both the travel aspects and the quality of the professors (Matt Bracken, Breck Tyler, Steve Vollmer in particular) but without the other Three Seas students, this experience wouldn’t have been nearly as fulfilling. It’s been an amazing way to get a master’s degree. I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for all my fellow students.” Lauren McGeorge
“It’s been the best year of my life, no doubt. Favorite parts: Bird Island aka Paradise, Coiba Sharks, MSC life, Intertidal exploration in Nahant, Shaw Island, Diving in Friday Harbor, the instant downpours in Bocas, TIDES!!!!” Ben Walker
“The people that I met here are the most amazing, talented people. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the year with anyone else.” Piper Wallingford
“Hands down Marine Birds and Mammals class! Seeing all the seals, sea lions, porpoises and birds was amazing! Best class! Breck was an amazing professor and I wish we could have had him longer.” Valerie Moyer
“This was a great program. I am so happy that this was how I got my masters degree in Marine Biology.” Lee Cronin-Fine
“Three Seas is probably going to go down in history as the year where I did the coolest stuff I’ve ever done in my life.” Joshua Burns
“Three Seas is so many things–challenging, frustrating, exhilarating, hysterical, exhausting, but mostly its an opportunity. This program is an opportunity to do things you may never have done and may never get to do again. It’s an opportunity to meet people you read about and see things you’ve only seen in magazines. An opportunity to become accustomed to the incredible. You know your life is amazing when the seventh or eighth siting of a sloth in a tree seems like just another day. What you put into this program is what you will get out and if what you want is an education that will bring you around the world and memories that will awe your grandchildren then you’ll get it. I will never forget days in the sun on the dock in Panama, laughing over 12 watermelons in horribly driven boats in Coiba, shivering over binoculars in Friday Harbor searching for beautiful birds and, of course, the people I met here. Frustrations or not, this program will be a huge part of who am for the rest of my life.” Bailey Clear
“While I enjoyed the field work, lectures, and the beauty of each location, many of the distinct learning occurred when a project was wrapped up. When we could see the dimensions of the old growth forests, the patterns of bird communities, or the physiology of snail respiration and shell morphology. Our separate analysis of the parts told a more complex story when pulled together at the end of every project.” Cathy Roney
“ Here I came to the very edge
where one does not need to say anything
all is learned through weather and sea,
and out came the moon,
its rays silvered,
and each time the night was broken
with the crash of a wave
and every day on the balcony of the sea,
wings are opened, fire is born,
and everything is blue again like morning.
Yo aquí vine a los límites
en donde no hay que decir nada,
todo se aprende con tiempo y océano,
y volvía la luna,
sus líneas plateadas
y cada vez se rompía la sombra
con un golpe de ola
y cada día en el balcón del mar
abre las alas, nace el fuego
y todo sigue azul como mañana
- Pablo Neruda”
Submitted by Molly Roberts
“Three Seas was a really rewarding experience that introduced me to three new places that I never would have considered traveling to before this program, and now I cannot wait to return to all of them. The integration of marine science learning with lab and field work is unmatched, not to mention the diving was spectacular!” Jennifer Alsen
“Three Seas was a gamble for me. I was graduating college a year early with no job prospects, and for some reason Sal let me in. I am very glad he did, because it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I feel prepared for a job in this field, was able to visit amazing places, and made some great friendships along the way.” Ellen Pullekines
“This past year has been the most exhilarating and challenging time of my life. I don’t think we could have had a more talented and patient group of instructors, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to have studied with them. We laughed, we cried, we accidently inhaled harmful chemicals… an all around great experience.” Stephanie June
“To simply describe the Three Seas experience as ‘life changing’ does not do justice to the extent to which this program fosters both intellectual and personal growth. The myriad of ways in which I have been bettered by this program, my classmates and my instructors has yet to fully sink in. Reflecting on the past 9 months, I am filled with a sense of pride, fondness and deep gratitude to have been given the opportunity to so profoundly immerse myself in the study of marine biology. Though I am reluctant to resurface and rejoin the outside world, I am excited to put my newly equipped knowledge and confidence towards good works in the future.”
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.