Last month, three Northern Essex Community College students were able to join us for a week of banding adult gulls on Appledore. The funding for their time with us came from the NECC Fund, the college’s annual fund, which draws donations from generous alumni, local corporations and foundations, and other institutions committed to giving NECC students the best experience they can possibly have. The three students who came out in May certainly appreciated it, and each one sent along a note of thanks.
Each of these three students were selected based on the strength of their application essays and the recommendations of faculty members who were impressed with their work. I can honestly say, this was the strongest, most well oiled team we have assembled in some time. Each member worked hard, maintained a positive attitude in the face of twisted ankles, bleeding hands, self-inflicted blows to the head, knees damp with the seeping feces of birds, and raised welts from red ant bites.
Eric Lanouette, whose exuberant energy and goofball aspect belie a remarkable work ethic, wanted me to pass along this note, “Thank you for the great opportunity to participate in the research going on at the Marine Research Lab at Appledore Island. During my time there I learned a lot more than I was expecting and was able to gain some experience in field research. I feel that this experience will be invaluable in the future to me. Thank you all!” Eric was referred to us by Dr. Mark Clements, who knows Eric from his biology class. I am very grateful to Mark for sending Eric my way–he proved utterly invaluable, and appeared to have a genuinely excellent time in the field.I have a photo here that demonstrates Eric’s approach to field work. He appropriated half of a corn hole game to use as a blind, peering out at his quarry through the peephole. Down the path, he had rigged a double trap of his own devising over the nest of a particularly wary gull. After many minutes of waiting around, I was packing up to leave when I heard Eric yell, “Got him!” and indeed he had. Persistence, ingenuity, and a positive attitude; Eric fairly well defines what I would look for in a field assistant.
Nathan Kozlovski was a known quantity to me, having been my student in an Honors class this past semester. I knew his thoughtfulness, intellectual curiosity, and incredibly strong writing skills before we ever set foot on the island. It is therefore fitting that I let Nathan do his own talking about the experience on Appledore:
To the Student Fund at Northern Essex Community College,
I was recently given the opportunity to participate in an on-going research project affiliated with the Shoals Marine Laboratory, on Appledore Island. As I am still working on an associate degree in physical science, I had not yet had the opportunity to observe hands-on-research in the field, working with wild animals in a natural setting. I am currently on a general geoscience track, with a focus on geology, yet my core interest is in the reconstruction of paleoecosystems and the stressors that can cause extinctions. Due to the unique pathway I am currently set upon, the chance to work with the living is an incredibly valuable one, and much of my geology course work yet-to-come will have me focused on classwork away from animal habitats and the observation of animal behavior.
Professor Courchesne’s team was well-selected, with two summer interns, two busy-bodies, and one indispensable army guy. We had much success in humanely capturing, blood sampling, and tagging the two species of seagulls on the island, and I learned much about the nuances of behavior that can widely separate two closely-related species cohabitating in close proximity. I also learned a bit about general nesting behaviors, feeding habits, territorial competition, and some methods used for tracking the migratory patterns of seagulls. In addition, the location’s facilities were well-maintained, the staff excellent, and the environment very conducive to learning. As a geology guy, I even managed to learn a little about the island’s fascinating, and very ancient, geological history. One could spend an entire summer studying that heavily-eroded and convoluted gniess and pegmatite!
The experience on the Isles of Shoals, for my part, was money well spent, and I wished to send an earnest note-of-thanks for the use of student resources for this opportunity! Sincerely, Nathan Kozlovski
Finally, Cesar (David) Mesta, a student in the Lab Science program, rounding out the team. He writes,
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the research program in Shoal lab. In the week I spent in Appledore island I learned many skills, like patience and methodical approach. That can only be learn by working on the field and, especially with gulls! I will always remember this experience and can’t wait to one day go back.
Thank you again.
Sincerely, Cesar Mesta”
David was typically quiet, though he showed a wide-eyed excitement/alarm whenever gull feces came raining down in particularly close proximity to us. Perhaps because he is quiet by nature, David is a remarkably keen observer and quick study. Before I even knew what I needed, several times, it appeared at my elbow in the hands of David, who had anticipated what would be necessary for the work to run smoothly. By the end of our first half day on the island, he had engineered creative solutions for a few problems of missing equipment. That kind of adaptability is not natural to everyone, but is critical to success in the field. David told me he never expected to be chosen for this opportunity, and was very surprised to receive my email inviting him to join us. I certainly chose well, and his spot on our team was well deserved and well earned.
I close with my personal thanks to the NECC Fund and all who support it. I cannot fully describe the transformations I see occur in students who get the opportunity to come join us in the field. I know that it changes the course of people’s lives, and there is no way to replicate this kind of experience on campus. I am honored to have received this grant to bring these remarkable students out into the field, and I was most fortunate to work with them.
If you would like to give to the NECC Fund to support future students in opportunities like these, please visit this secure giving link, and accept my thanks!