When a postcard for Stone Lab showed up in Leah Martin’s mail one day, it seemed like a chance to get some good lab and field experience under her belt. She didn’t yet realize the enormous impact it would have on how she views her studies, her future career, and science in general.
Leah signed up for a five-week ecology course and applied for a student job, leaving for the Lake Erie shore just a few days after spring semester finals. After hopscotching from a car to a boat to another car to another boat, it finally sunk in that she would be spending the next three months on an island. “It seemed unreal,” Leah said, recalling her time at Stone Lab. “You’re out in nature and stranded on an island, in a good way.”
Being “stranded” meant she had plenty of time to get to know the biological field station assistants (BFSAs), who opened her eyes to the possibilities she had in a scientific career. Rather than spending all their time in windowless labs or at a dingy desk, the BFSAs took her in the field to survey wildlife on the islands and conduct hands-on research.
Once class started, she spent even more time outdoors, constantly taking field trips to the other islands and learning on the fly. “It changed what I expect from my classes,” she said. “I want to be outside and active and have that Stone Lab experience again.” Even the less glamorous moments were fun in the end. Leah remembers a field trip where two girls found leeches on their arms after wading through the water. They were obviously shocked at first, but that passed quickly. The professor calmly removed the leeches, and everyone was laughing about it by the time they returned to the lab. “Little things like that remind you that you’re out in nature,” Leah said.
Leah still isn’t sure exactly what she wants to do after college, but, as a result of her time at Stone Lab, she knows she wants to be more active in the field. “Looking back, I don’t know what my life would look like without knowing what else is out there,” she said. “If you’re thinking of going to Stone Lab, definitely do it!”