GOMI’s Influence on Me
“Who’d like to come and see the damage better”? Before I even answered, my feet were self-assuredly stepping off the spongy surface of peat and placing themselves down the incline. “Be careful the mud sticks.” At that moment my mom’s 1980’s, army green, marsh boots hit the slick, salty mud of the salt marsh. I sunk deep into the mud. I wrenched on my right foot. I was stuck. As my body swayed to the left, I waited for the reassuring push back of an object. It never came. My body squelched into the mud. My entire left side: boot, knee, thigh, arm, hair, was coated in inches of rotten egg smelling mud. Thus, began my first Gulf of Maine Institute (GOMI) conference.
When I first arrived at the weeklong conference, which hosts all nine GOMI teams from Massachusetts to New Brunswick, Canada, I expected power points and lectures. Instead, I found myself sloping across the marsh, interacting with scientists, and presenting my findings to the city's mayor. At the conference, I learned public speaking, leadership and the confidence necessary to become an effective environmental activist. I remember I spent hours at my first conference memorizing my two-minute speech on ecosystem services. Now, I cannot believe that just last week I spontaneously delivered a thirty-minute presentation to a lecture hall of a hundred people with barely a tremble in my voice. As I attended my third conference, I confidently took charge and organized my group’s speech. It was a striking difference to the passive, shy child I had been at the beginning of my journey with GOMI.
What amazes me the most about GOMI is it has continued to follow me throughout college. As I sat down in my Life after Biology class, which is meant to challenge you to think about your life after college, I was surrounded by the hesitancy, intimidation and even horror of my classmates as they stumbled their way through their first resume. I sheepishly handed over my resume with its two internships, outreach work, and hundreds of hours of community service for a peer-review session. I suddenly realized how well prepared I was for my life after college in comparison to my peers and how much of that I owe to GOMI. Because of a grant partnership with GOMI, I spent my summer as an intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (USFWS), Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Newbury, MA. While working there, I woke up excited every day for work, immersed myself in field research and gained valuable skills such as Geographic Information System (GIS). Through the internship, I was able to prove my leadership and initiative skills and am now volunteering at the USFWS regional office in Hadley, which will set me up to work for the Service upon graduating.
Finally, GOMI has inspired me to be a lifelong activist. Through GOMI I recognized that environmental change does not come through watching documentaries, but rather through attending conservation commission meetings, educating the public, and performing citizen science. After adjusting to UMASS, I could not ignore my deep calling to continue my environmental work. I could not stand to be a bystander to climate change, and so I found myself protesting the North Dakota Access Pipeline, marching in the Climate March in Washington, D.C., and teaching school-age children about climate change. I know that upon graduating, I will continue to fight against climate wherever I end up.
Overall, GOMI has provided me with the skills to inform others, the opportunities to be competitive in an environmental field and the passion to be a lifelong environmental activist.
A successful Pepperweed pull as part of my internship with the Fish and Wildlife Service
Using GPS to locate NEKTON sampling sites.
One of many truckloads of pepperweed. There were over 300 bags in total.
Lauren is a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she majors in natural resources conservation. She is a GOMI alumnus and attended GOMI summer Workshops in both Canada and the United States. She is currently pursuing her biggest passion, vegetated/green rooftops, through an internship at Apex green roofs. She also engages in green roof research and outreach work at UMASS. Upon graduating she will work in the field or pursue graduate school as a wildlife biologist. She is not yet sure of the order.