I wasn’t sure what I was going to do in college, and so I initially had mixed feelings about applying to participate in the Day 1 Watershed program as a freshman. Looking back now as a junior, though, all I can say is that the value of my involvement with the Day 1 Watershed program has only appreciated with time. It has opened the door to many new and exciting opportunities—including one in the Bahamas.
The Day 1 Watershed program engages participants in experiential learning from their first day on campus and encourages us to continue to grab every experiential learning opportunity we can after the first year. I participated in Hope’s Island Life May-term at the end of my freshman year. Island Life is an amazing course run by the geology department’s Dr. Bodenbender. It focuses on the sustainability, diversity and geology of the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, and involves a week-long trip to the island in its third and final week to study these concepts hands-on. Our group also took some time to sightsee, and to assist local biologists with their day-to-day jobs. I can’t enumerate all of our activities, but highlights included seeing the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea simultaneously, catching a stingray by wading after it and staring it down, and going spelunking down to a bed of ancient African soil.
The main project I undertook was the writing of a miniature field guide manuscript that detailed biological and geological interactions at the various locales we hiked and snorkled through, with species lists as complete as could be assembled given the limited time. It was the most ambitious piece of science writing I’ve yet composed, and I am now looking to expand upon that experience. I recently submitted an excerpt of this field guide to the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings, Michigan, along with a project proposal to write a far more ambitious field guide manuscript based on their species inventory and conservation efforts. I don’t know what precisely my future holds, but I know that it will be brighter because of the opportunities and experiences that were made available to me because of the Day 1 Watershed program.