“It was easy to be inspired to learn in such a unique and beautiful place.”
Marissa Ganzfried first visited Stone Lab in 2006 as a middleschooler when her brother took a summer course there. Despite her only tagging along, Gibraltar Island fascinated her in a way she’d never before experienced. The beautiful view of the lake along with the smell of mist filling the air captured her imagination. She had always loved biology and the outdoors, but Stone Lab transformed appreciation of nature into fascination. Three years later, Marissa returned to the island for a one-week Introduction to Aquatic Biology course.
Stone Lab made Marissa the scientist and put her in the field to collect data. She experienced first-hand how aquatic environments influenced the animals that live in them and how those animals in turn influence their environments. Like a leaf on a river, Marissa was swept away. “After taking courses at Stone Lab,” she said, “I knew I wanted to study environmental science.”
And study she did. Marissa would return to Stone Lab twice more, once just after high school and again in college, this time for a five-week course and as a recipient of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Scholarship, where she worked closely with a professional researcher to study the preservation and cataloguing of Lake Erie fish and aquatic samples. While the work was challenging, Marissa found she couldn’t get enough of it. “It was easy to be inspired to learn in such a unique and beautiful place,” she said.
Class wasn’t the only aspect that she enjoyed though. “My favorite part was the relationships I formed with my professors and other students,” she said. Late night insect-pinning parties with music and laughter formed a camaraderie like no other. Learning and working together with students who had similar interests not only created friendships; those same friends are now contacts in Marissa’s professional network.
It’s been a few years since Marissa last visited Stone Lab, but the science came ashore with her. Marissa is now an environmental specialist with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, where she works in the Division of Drinking and Ground Water to make sure public water is safe for consumption. Looking back, it’s almost funny to her that it all started with a short boat trip, but that trip turned into a passion that she still has. And it’s important to her that others have the same opportunities.
“It is so important to keep these experiences available,” she said, “so those interested in science can be inspired.”