I stumbled into the Smithsonian Close Analysis Institute through abnormal circumstances. I like to call myself as the Best-Worst Backpacker Ever, because afterwards alone one anniversary as a day-tripper in Panama, I begin myself with a abiding job that would ultimately be the centermost focus of my activity over the advance of ten months. Thanks to STRI and a accomplished lot of luck, this has been one of the best years of my life.
Growing up as a citizen of Washington, D.C., I had consistently captivated the Smithsonian as a aureate accepted of science ysis and communication. The Smithsonian Close Analysis Institute appeared on my alarm while I was belief abyssal science as an undergraduate at Boston University. I dreamed of diving in apricot reefs with them for years, but I never formed up the aplomb to administer for a grant. However, afterwards an undergraduate activity in Belize, a acreage division in Ecuador, graduation, and a postgrad year with Americorps, I was agog to leave the east bank and see added of the world. In August 2017, I appointed a one-way admission to Guatemala, with basal plans; a little money; and a lot of acceptance in my foolishness, tenacity, and adulation of the unknown.
Two months later, I accustomed in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama, and anon was ardent by its abundant close beauty. My biking priorities anon morphed into schemes that would acquiesce me to stay. Aware that STRI had a acreage base on one of the islands, I looked up admiral of several programs, acquisitive to break as a advance for a ages or two. To my surprise, Dr. Stanley Heckadon-Moreno bound replied to my email, and offered me a position as a abbreviate appellation activity administrator at the Punta Galeta acreage station, in the Caribbean arena of Colon.
I couldn’t accept my luck.
From September until December, I supervised a aggregation of volunteers, developed apprenticeship materials, and helped plan an age-old breed insect garden for Galeta’s visitors’ program. My appointment window anon disregarded the reef; my home was a adhesive abode applesauce on the beach; my attached were geckos and the casual adventurous crab. Nighttime was lonely; but it was additionally peaceful. I admired attractive up at the alabaster way at night and seeing huge burden ships at sea. The weeks flowed on, boring and steadily.
With alone three weeks until I flew aback to the States for Christmas, and 10 canicule afore I larboard Galeta, I accomplished Panama absolutely acquainted like home. Once again, I started ytic for a way to extend my time. As if it were meant to be, I saw an advertisement for a ysis abetment position in one of STRI’s abyssal science labs. Dr. Aaron O’dea was attractive for an intern to assignment on a paleontology activity about molluscs and age-old apricot beach energetics. I wasn’t absolutely abiding how I acquainted about paleontology, but invertebrates and ocean activity flows were my jam, and I had helped several advisers and PhD acceptance on accompanying assignment in college. I was optimistic about my chances. So, I adapted my resume and emailed a anxiously accounting awning letter to the two post-docs administering the interviews.
Then I waited for a response. And beatific a aftereffect email. And waited some more.
In the meantime, the aggregation at Galeta captivated a admirable adieu affair for me, and I came up with a tourism calendar for my actual chargeless days. I awkward all my things into my haversack and hauled it out to Portobelo, to Casco Viejo, to Peace Corps accompany in Panama Oeste, and assuredly to Boquete, a hip coffee agriculture boondocks in Panama’s western mountains. As a aftermost hurrah, I planned to backpack Volcan Baru. On a acceptable day at the—3,474 beat summit, you can see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans at the aforementioned time. Some bodies say that it feels like seeing the accomplished country from heaven. What bigger way to bless my acquaintance with this place?
While cat-and-mouse in the bus terminal for the 8 hour adventure to Boquete, I assuredly accustomed a acknowledgment to my internship application. Someone abroad got the job.
Disappointed but resolved, I hopped on the bus and travelled center beyond the country to ascend the volcano. Imagine my abruptness aback the aing day, I accustomed an email from Dr. Chien-Hsiang Lin, and Dr. Blanca Figuerola, two post-doctoral advisers alive with Aaron O’dea:
“Dear Katie Griswold,
We accept accession internship accessible in the lab for three months to assignment with Dr Chien- Hsiang on otolithes. I ambition to allure you to appear an account this week, as you will be in Panamá, in case you are interested.
So, would I like to assignment with fish, which I had never formed with, in a paleontological ambience with which I had no experience, accurately absorption on an close ear cartilage that I had alone a ambiguous acquaintance of? Obviously.
Long adventure short, I climbed up and bottomward the abundance one day, and bought accession bus admission aback to the added ancillary of the country for my interview. On the way, I bound advised aggregate I could about the lab’s assignment on otoliths, the ysis applications of otoliths in general, and any abstruse agreement I anticipation ability pop up in conversation. The aing day, I absolved into the Naos Island class for my interview, as optimistic and able as I could be beneath the circumstances. This time, accession phenomenon happened. The account went well, I met anybody in the lab, and by the end of the day I was told had been called for the job.
In January 2018, I began a amazing adventure of ability with the smartest, funniest, and warmest arrangement of bodies I could achievement to assignment with. My teammates, supervisors, and intern compatriots helped me through the affliction of times- like aback I struggled for months to affairs an beginning angel processing arrangement that would admeasurement photos of my tiny otoliths. And they aggregate my joy in my best moments- and there were many. In accession to allegory the abstracts I was initially assassin to collect, I had the befalling to go on several acreage expeditions with a pickaxe, travelled to Taiwan for an all-embracing conference, hiked boscage trails, ate every anatomy of plantain accepted to man, and snorkeled on abounding reefs. Throughout all moments, I acquainted absolutely adored to accept begin this community.
And that, baby accompany and readers, is how I became a Smithsonian intern.
The Smithsonian Close Analysis Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a assemblage of the Smithsonian Institution. The Institute furthers the compassionate of close biodiversity and its accent to animal welfare, trains acceptance to conduct ysis in the tropics and promotes attention by accretion accessible acquaintance of the adorableness and accent of close ecosystems. Website. Promo video.
Katie Griswold is alive on a activity with STRI agents scientist Aaron O’dea and Chien-Hsiang Lin, a visiting researcher, to use otolith assemblages to investigate the activity histories of holocene beach fish. Through the abstraction of otoliths assemblages, we accord advice to what apricot reefs were like in a time afore animal influence. This advice can be compared to present reefs and can appearance our account about ecosystem conservation. I accelerating from Boston University with a B.A. in abyssal science and biology, again spent a year as an Americorps after-school drillmaster afore I aing STRI as a ysis assistant. My claimed interests lie at the circle of ysis and community-driven conservation.
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