Erin and I had the amazing experience of taking the Fundamentals of Ecosystem ecology class at the Cary Institute. The class started on January 1st but Erin and I decided to start it off with a bang So we headed down early to tear up NYC on New Year’s Eve. The Cary Institute is a 20-hour drive from Michigan tech but we started our adventure from Detroit MI. After a full day of driving on December 30, we arrived at the Cary Institute in Millbrook NY. After getting settled we crashed because we had a big day planned ahead of us.
We woke up early on the 31st and took the train to MYC promptly got into a line upon our arrival. We were going to do New Year’s Eve right. In Times Square baby. It was rough. We stood around in the freezing cold for 13 hours. Was it worth it? Yes. Two Minutes after midnight we were running to the train station as fast as our frozen feet could carry us. We arrived back at the Cary Institute around 3 am and crashed so we could get our beauty sleep before the other students arrived. Can’t be meeting our classmates with bags under our eyes.
People trickled in all day and the Cary Institute hosted a pizza dinner for us to get to know each other the first night. The next day started out great with the students eating breakfast together, but that paled in comparison to our first class session. We met Dr. Gene Likins! He got us thinking and arguing about ecosystems and scientific communication.
Each class was full of brand name scientists. I may have/definitely fanboyed out. I now have signatures and selfies from some of my scientific heroes. We learned so much about ecosystem ecology from biogeochemical cycles to secondary production. Just as valuable as lessons on ecology was hearing about their experiences on their path to becoming a Cary Institute research scientist.Hearing that top researchers were not always confident about their path in life made me feel better about the many insecurities I am experiencing in my own journey.
We also got to meet some other amazing people. Allison Cekala was the artist in residence and she showed off some of her work. It work was amazing and thought-provoking. The way she described her thought process as she talked about her project was beautiful. The research, work, and effort she put into the work were mind-blowing. I definitely suggest checking out her work. Her Salt Series is exceptional as she carries us the extraordinary journey of road salt from the mines to the streets.
On other highlight was hearing Dr. Peter Goffman talk about nitrogen. I may be a bit bias because of the element but he presented the topic with such enthusiasm and knowledge you couldn’t help but enjoy yourself. I also was able to meet with him one on one where we discussed Detroit and my research. I’ve been a bit cynical about my research lately but the excitement interest he showed toward the project was restoring. I found myself excited to return to my proposal with enhancing vigor and new insights.
Dr. Kathy Weathers organized a special surprise for us. She organized a mock NSF panel in which the students were the reviewers. This was a great experience we the students were panelists who had to present the different proposals.
All of the Cary Institute researchers were amazing and I can’t thank them enough. I do have to give one last shout out of thanks to Aude. She was with us the whole time making sure we had everything we could have wanted and was an integral part in making the experience as amazing as it was.