An Ohio State University education and a career in science almost seemed like a predetermined fate for Ella Weaver.
Nearly all her family members attended Ohio State, said Weaver, who is from Archbold in Fulton County, Ohio and is currently a senior on track to graduate in December 2016. Her father, Michael, was a soil conservationist and her uncle works for the Environmental Protection Agency. That, in addition to being raised in the country, helped Weaver feel a connection with nature early on.
“We lived right next to a creek and I was always playing in the creek,” Weaver said. “Whenever we got together a lot of our family gatherings were focused on being outside.”
Now she’s majoring in environmental science and has a job at Ohio State’s Kottman Hall, where the administrative offices for the School of Environment and Natural Resources are located. It was there that she first heard about Stone Lab from some of the academic advisors.
“My major is really geared toward more field work, so I thought a Stone Lab course would be a good complement as far as what skills I need,” Weaver said, adding that she needed to take Ecology in order to graduate. “It was kind of good timing.”
Arriving at Gibraltar Island in mid-June, Weaver was astonished at how small the island was and how intimate the classes were; her class had just seven other students – a far cry from the large classes she was used to taking at Ohio State.
“I’ve never really been anywhere with that few students,” she said. “I got to know everybody there. I was kind of surprised that many people came from other colleges, too.” Students from any university can take classes at Stone Lab, as the credits are transferrable to most schools.
Weaver said the about 30 students who lived on Gibraltar during the 5-week term grew very close in just a few short days.
“I really felt like after a week or so that I was part of the island life,” she said. One of her favorite things about her time at Stone Lab was spending time with others who shared her interest in science. “We’re still really good friends even though some of the students didn’t go to Ohio State. We really did bond while we were there.”
Weaver was one of eight student workers who earn free room and board in exchange for helping with daily operations of the lab, including housekeeping and kitchen duties, and assisting with tours at the Aquatic Visitors Center (AVC) and South Bass Island Lighthouse.
On class days, they’d either attend lecture on Gibraltar or go out into the field to do macroinvertebrate sampling or seining, or to study photosynthesis.
“It was a great experience and I’m really glad that I got to do it,” Weaver said. “It’s completely different from a traditional classroom setting. It gets you the hands-on experience that all science majors should have, and it really gave me a dynamic understanding of Lake Erie and its ecosystems that has carried over into my other classes,” she said.
But the hours she spent leading tours at the AVC and lighthouse were just as worthwhile; Weaver plans to pursue a job in environmental education after she graduates, and those face-to-face interactions will be an invaluable addition to her resume.