Post by Juan José Gómez (Colgate '24).
While in the Gulf this summer, the heat and humidity were not the only things by our side as we did fieldwork. Our lab group was fortunate enough to meet researchers in adjacent fields, as they joined us on some of our offshore days. Meeting local people, as well as taking time to explore the areas of Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana where we were based, exposed us to various cultures of the South (some aspects which were more discreet than others). We were also able to insert ourselves into the extremely fun world of marine research at the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab (FSUCML), Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL). With every boat ride, came friendly faces which became voices of guidance as we talked about careers. Our conversations with people ranged from graduate students to tenured professors. Even while working in the blistering heat, we talked about preparation for graduate school applications and our futures beyond our academic careers. Most of these informal encounters happened on the boat as the seas rocked us back and forth, during dinner on outdoor swings, and in spaces at the marine labs. Some employees of the marine labs shared their journeys that brought them to where they are currently. These stories were made much more real by disclosing the mistakes that we can expect along the way. I enjoyed the conversations that we had and found them to be very influential in thinking about what I might do following my experience learning about marine invertebrates. There was never a dull moment when participating in fieldwork; most times I thought about how the work seemed more fun than I expected.
We shared many laughs on the boat, and after hearing so much about other people's experiences, I feel more confident than ever in my decision to take a few years in between undergraduate and graduate studies to establish an adult life beyond the classroom. This research experience has also furthered my interests in becoming an environmentalist, solely because I was immersed in a community passionate about learning about our changing planet. The process of observing past environments is intriguing nonetheless and can be helpful in understanding modern changes. In continuing to pursue a path focused on understanding environmental change, I hope I will get to be as comfortable as I was this summer doing fieldwork in the Gulf of Mexico.