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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Life after the Wells Reserve: An Americorps Member Update

Posted by Wells Reserve Contributor | May 4, 2012

Emily Thornton, MCC AmericorpsI cannot believe it’s been six months since I left the Wells Reserve at the end of my MCC term. Last November, having spent the summer and fall gaining valuable field experience, I headed home to pursue my next career goal: admission to graduate school. It was a daunting but surprisingly natural transition, as my experiences at the Reserve prepared me well for this next phase.

I came to the Wells NERR during a two-year “break” from academic study. I had a degree in Biology and Environmental Science and knew that I was interested in conducting ecological research and becoming a professor. I just needed to determine what I wanted to study. I took a few short-term environmental research and education positions before arriving in Wells, using what I liked and disliked about each job to determine what to do next. I came to the Reserve in May 2011 after finishing an environmental education assistantship in Florida. I was eager to resume field research, particularly in aquatics, and was excited to start work with fish. The position was a great fit because I was looking for a combination of marine and freshwater work, and I was going to participate in a wide variety of monitoring and research projects (see my last post for a summary).

The summer flew by and in the early fall I began to think about what my next career move would be. This was a struggle because I was really enjoying my work, particularly the projects involving anadromous fish. After much contemplation, I realized that the only way my situation could be better was if I was doing my own research. All at once, I had found the desire to return to school and the topic I wished to study there.

And so the grad school hunt began! I did a nationwide search for coastal schools with professors studying anadromous fish ecology, and sent out dozens of emails inquiring about graduate funding. Early in the fall, I contacted Dr. Tom Quinn at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. We had common research interests and he described a project he hoped to have funded regarding the Elwha River dam removals and the river’s salmonids. Simply, the project was like a large-scale version of the Shorey’s Brook restoration project. It was, by far, the most exciting graduate opportunity I had heard about and I thought my experience at the Wells Reserve, particularly with Shorey’s Brook, would make me a good candidate for the position.

I continued my graduate school search, but UW remained at the top of my list. In mid-February, Dr. Quinn contacted me about a phone interview. That led to an in-person interview in Seattle, which resulted in my admission to the school! This September, I will begin my MS in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, studying salmonids as they recolonize and re-establish anadromy in the Elwha River.

Elwha Dam Removal

The restoration of the Elwha River is one of the largest ecological restoration projects in United States history and I am thrilled to be involved. I am certain that my experiences at the Wells Reserve not only helped me to get the graduate position, but that the work I’ve done in southern Maine’s waterways has helped prepare me for the work that I’ll be doing on the Elwha.

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