Immersed in Her Work
education has worked swimmingly for
Wendy Dow as she pursues her passion for the sea and the creatures that live in
it. Imagine for a moment that you are a young girl growing up on an island off
the rocky coast of Maine
. You are surrounded by the ocean, and it
fascinates you. You wade in tidal pools. You make your mother stop the car so
you can watch seals sunning on rock outcrops. You do a high school project on
barnacles. Salt water runs through your blood. You know from your earliest years
that you want a career that connects you to the sea and all its wonders. So when
it comes time to choose a college, you quite logically choose…um… landlocked
"It didn't really matter to me that it wasn't near the ocean," says
Wendy Dow, the Islesboro, Maine
, native, 2003
graduate, current marine scientist, and soon-to-be Duke University Ph.D. student
who lived that island fantasy. "What mattered was the quality of the education
I'd be getting."
After double-majoring in biology and environmental
studies at Gettysburg
, Wendy shipped out to Duke to pursue
a master's degree in environmental management, studying seal behavior for her
master's project. After getting her degree, she took a job as a scientist with
the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, or WIDECAST, researching
nesting sites of sea turtles in the region, including the leatherback, an
elusive creature that walks off into the sea as a tiny hatchling and returns to
breed an undetermined number of years later, having gone off who knows where to
do who knows what.
Wendy says Gettysburg
prepared her well for all of this.
phenomenal. I learned the scientific method, how to conduct a thorough
literature review, how to write a great scientific paper, and that's huge in
grad school. I learned analytical skills and how to solve problems. I was way
more prepared than others in my graduate program."
Access to water
proved easier than it looked on a map. Wendy did an internship working with
dolphins at the National Aquarium in Baltimore
. She returned to Maine
with her faculty
advisor, where she did collaborative research on mussels, studying their growth
and their impact on the surrounding ecosystem, the local economy, and the people
in the region.
In fact, much of her work has explored this intersection
between sea creatures and humans. "You can't solve environmental problems just
with science," she says. "You can have a brilliant scientific solution that
doesn't work in the real world. There's a human side and a policy side to every
environmental problem. At Gettysburg
I had such a broad spectrum of
courses. It taught me to look at all sides of things."
Next fall she
starts her doctoral program in marine conservation biology, and after that she
hopes to keep doing research and maybe also teach. Her future isn't completely
mapped out, but it's a lot more predictable than that of the turtles she's
studying. "I'm not a cubicle kind of person," she says, as if there were a
question about that. "I need to be near the sea."