After a few days of cleaning up our study sites, (which involved hauling forty buckets full of snails out of the mud and carting artificial guillemot burrows made out of PVC halfway across the island) we said farewell to Kent Island, the place that had taught us so much during our eight week stay. Mark Murray has seen many groups of students come and go in his 26 years as caretaker, and remarked that being on the island is a transformative experience. The majority of students who do summer research never return, but the lessons that they learn about science and about their own capabilities last them their lifetimes.
All of the scientists who took me out into the field with them set out to do projects that they had proposed long before coming to the island, and I watched their questions and methods progress as they learned about their study species and the environment. They adapted to inaccessible study sites, bad weather, elusive (or absent) study species, and inconclusive data. In the face of difficulty, relying on your own resourcefulness is important, but so is tapping into the knowledge of the community. Everyone took advantage of Mark’s engineering marvels, the biology expertise of the faculty scientists, and each other’s wisdom and generous help. I never could have written my blog without the research and editing advice of my peers, who kept me faithful to the science that is at the core of my project.
I also never could have written my blog without my readers, who kept me motivated to keep discovering new things about Kent Island. I have tried to convey my experience of the complex beauty of the island, its wildlife, and its people through stories about science. Kent Island taught me the immense power of observation, the first step to asking better questions. In the words of Tinbergen, research does not often end in conclusions, but in “sharper formulation of the problems.” I hope that you have enjoyed my writing, and that you continue to be curious about the science behind the world around you, because, as I discovered this summer, the rewards are many.