There’s no shortage of opportunities that I have had the privilege to experience in my four years here in the North Country. From my “intermediate canoeing” pre-orientation trip to the many journeys to Lampson Falls, I have had countless outdoor adventures. It wasn’t until my junior year that I experienced our surrounding environment in an academic setting and discovered a passion that would inspire my Senior Year Experience (SYE).
At the advice of some close friends, I enrolled in “The Ecology of Lakes and Rivers." This class fit snugly into my environmental studies and biology combined major. Ever since I was a boy, I have been fascinated with water, whether this be tide pooling upon the rocky Maine coast or exploring the swamps and creeks of my backyard. My fascination drew me towards Professor of Biology Brad Baldwin's course.
In this class, we explored and discovered the beautiful freshwater ecosystems of the northern Adirondacks. Starting with the lakes and ponds, we tested chemical compounds, depth, and dissolved organic compounds. We piloted rowboats, canoes, and jon boats, and even took trips on the family pontoon boats of some lakeside residents. From here, we moved to rivers, creeks, and brooks. As we approached these bodies of water with kick nets, streamflow gauges, and Secchi discs, we looked into what the tributaries of the St. Lawrence River had to offer. We collected and analyzed populations of macroinvertebrates like stonefly larvae and dragonfly larvae.
The final and rarest waterbody we visited was the Adirondack bog. The bog, characterized by low dissolved oxygen and a high pH, was unique from the lakes and rivers we’d sampled earlier.
This bog landscape fascinated me like no other body of water I had encountered. The tiny watershed lacked the ability to ever hold fish. This provides a look into what many of the Adirondack lakes could have looked like before the evolution of fish. It was this allure that drew me to consult with Professor Baldwin during the summer before senior year.
I sent an email to Professor Baldwin explaining that I hoped to be involved in the research he was doing in the fall. A few emails later and I was in, about to embark on another Adirondack adventure. This adventure would take me back to the bogs of the Adirondacks where I would analyze the coloration of copepod zooplankton. Through solo missions, team efforts, and many hours on the water, I gathered thousands of them.
Conducting my SYE research was one of the most challenging academic experiences I have had at SLU. Working hand in hand with Professor Baldwin to understand what I was finding and what this meant for my research was invaluable.
My journey to an SYE was relatively straightforward but was not without some challenging moments. A field-based SYE was exactly what I imagined for my SLU career and this endeavor was all I imagined it to be.