My Perspective on the Kent Island Research Community

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View of Kent Island (photo by Tracey Faber)

The Kent Island research community is both small and diverse, and the science research conducted here benefits from both of these aspects. Bowdoin students, Canadian graduate students, senior researchers, and a constant flux of visitors compose a community of different backgrounds, but everyone is united by a drive to discover and understand the Island in new ways. Kent Island is quite small, forcing everyone to live in close quarters with each other. Being on a remote island with twenty other people for weeks could be stifling, but the Bowdoin Scientific Station manages not to be. Part of the magic of this dynamic is the environment itself. The natural landscape is diverse: grasslands, hills, and forests make up the interior, while an ever-changing intertidal zone edges the Island. The ecosystems in these areas create opportunities for different research projects to occur simultaneously, but the scale of the Island means that the projects are in constant dialogue. For example, Ben walks through the Savannah Sparrow nesting habitat that the University of Guelph team is researching on his way to study Guillemots on East Beach, where Christine works at low tide to investigate Rockweed.

The collaborative spirit on the Island benefits everyone’s science fieldwork, because sometimes it takes group brainstorming to come up with an ingenious solution to a logistical problem. There are also always willing hands to help with time-consuming tasks, such as digging forty holes for Liam’s snail tanks, or cutting hundreds of meters of Christine’s Rockweed. Mark, the summer caretaker on the Island, is also an invaluable resource, and has helped to build everything from Ben’s bird blind to Drew’s settlement plates, often out of materials found on the beach. A strong work ethic binds the community together, and extends into every aspect of life.

The living environment is also a crucial part of the health and closeness of the community here. Everyone enjoys the wonderful food that Sam, a Bowdoin student, cooks every day for communal dinners in the dorm. Meals are a time to debrief, share knowledge, and laugh together. Damon Gannon, the program director, encouraged us to seek feedback from each other and the scientific experts on the Island. The common room, which is warm and light, also encourages people gather together and share what they have discovered during the day. I have learned more about birds sitting in a chair in the dorm living room in the evening than I ever did in a science class.

Living on Kent Island has brought me back to the roots of science: asking questions and seeking their answers. When I observe something about the Island and want to know how it works, I am surrounded by experts who can either provide me the answer, or give me the background to seek it myself. In a world in which technology dominates, it is all too easy to get instantaneous answers to questions and then immediately forget them. When another person explains the science behind something, or when you have to seek your own answers through observation of your surroundings, the journey to the knowledge makes the knowledge itself much more meaningful and permanent. The goal of my project is to extend this information sharing about the natural world to people outside of the Kent Island experience.

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