Living Shorelines- Summary

Summary


 

This summer has been incredibly informative to my academic future, giving me valuable lab and field research experience, allowing me to deepen my relationships with professors and grad students, gain an understanding of ecological fieldwork and how to work in a lab team, all while being quite a lot of fun.

Research was simultaneously exactly what I imagined and nothing at all like I expected; the research was engaging and interesting, but at times much more mundane and routine than I had imagined. Though I often found myself more enthralled by the presence and behaviors of birds I would once walk past without a second glance, I also had to accept that my heavily romanticized view of research was just that- romanticized. The hot days in the sun were long and taxing, the analysis became routine and, at times when birds would not appear in clips for hours at a time, sitting and watching a screen became quite boring.

However.

The intriguing, thought-provoking, leave-it-to-chance nature of ecological fieldwork FAR outweighed the dull reality of data analysis. I’m extremely lucky to be able to say that I spent a summer researching the impacts of a land management method that could quite literally change the face of the shorelines in this country, watching countless birds, fish, turtles, ctenophorae, rays, even the odd domesticated goat or peacock (Gloucester farms have everything!).

The amount of times I stopped to ask Bob why a certain behavior was happening can’t be counted- and the exciting part is that often, the answers are inconclusive. In this realm of study, one of the most fascinating things is how little we truly know. The behaviors of birds, the sporadic congregation of terrapins, even the motivations for a heron to transition from passive to active foraging states- we may only scratch the surface of understanding with our guesses. The impact of this understanding is paramount, and though my research was only to understand the impact of a land management strategy on the abundance/richness/presence of such species, I’ve come to accept that only by beginning to understand preferences, behaviors, and motivations, may we begin to act in ways that are beneficial to both mankind and the natural world, at a time in which it could not be more important.