The Hawaii Experience

As some of you reading this may know, this summer I took a field course to Hawaii to learn about coral reef ecology. I feel like I could probably write a novel about my experience, but in lieu of that, here are some highlights/lessons I learned:

  • Field work is hard. Like, really hard. Long hours, lots to keep track of, a lot to take in, sometimes less than ideal conditions. Overall, I really enjoyed getting a more realistic look at what I can expect to be doing for field work when I get out of school and into a job, and when it was all said and done, I’m looking forward to working in the field again. But I definitely hit a wall with being in the water so much. I’m prone to motion sickness, and while we were in relatively calm waters, I hadn’t been in any natural body of water for extended periods of time on a regular basis for a lot of years. It was a huge adjustment and, at times, it was really difficult to muster the energy to hit it again the next day.
  • I have been ruined on eating raw fish everywhere else. As I experienced with oysters when we lived in North Carolina, there is just no substitute for raw ahi that has never been frozen and is sourced from local waters.
  • In that same vein, I realized that I eat like shit in my regular daily life – and our standard grocery store fare does nothing to alleviate the challenge of eating healthfully. Even in the super market in Captain Cook, a lot of the food was locally grown, hadn’t been picked before it was ripe, hadn’t spent days in a truck and the sushi was as good or better than your favorite fancy restaurant. And don’t even get me started on the fruit stands. I had never in my life had a mango I actually enjoyed before this trip…and I may not have another one I like for a long time.
  • On the flip side of that, having a super cold beer and a burger or slice of pizza after working really hard is one of life’s most simple, pure joys.
  • Natural resource issues are so, so much more complex than most people appreciate. It’ just not as simple as applying the best available science and creating a solution that best benefits the organism/ecosystem. Now, I have always been fascinated by the intricacies of these issues, but before this class, I still had underestimated how delicate a balancing act it can be to find a resolution that fits all aspects.
  • Whatever you hear out there in the media, we are genuinely in a very precarious spot in terms of the health and productivity of this planet. And it does – and will in the future – impact every person, even you.
  • For the first time in my life, I can actually visualize myself living in a tropical location…and really loving it.
  • I discovered that I really miss being in an on-campus environment. Don’t get me wrong – online classes are super convenient for my lifestyle and OSU does a phenomenal job of seeing to the success of their online students. But here’s the thing – every single person I went on this course with was extremely encouraging, a team player and a teacher to the rest of the group. And being able to interact face-to-face with my instructors, to actually watch them walk me through a problem I was struggling with – it was invaluable. I miss the comradery of being in a small class that meets in person on the regular, and the relationships you build through that shared experience. While I’ve made a couple of great friendships with other people in the program, it has taken great effort on both parts to maintain that. It’s a totally different experience to be thrown together into an unfamiliar situation and have to work together to achieve success.
  • At the risk of anthropomorphizing, sea turtles are just as chill as they are portrayed in Finding Nemo.
  • Dreams do come true (stay tuned for more on this particular highlight).
  • You really can be incredibly happy with very little: A bed to sleep in, good food and exercise, smart and kind-hearted people around, and a beautiful place to explore.
  • This planet is full – I mean, to the absolute brim – of wonder and magic, if you’re just willing to get your ass out there and find it.hawaiipostpic
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