Occasionally Sachem Patch will publish stories written by members of the Sachem community who take part in extraordinary events or make a difference. This piece is about one Sachem student's trip to Georgia this summer, where she took part in an Earthwatch Journey.
By Ruchi Shah
On June 26, I landed in the Savannah airport feeling excited, nervous, anxious, and determined to have a wonderful experience. Two weeks later, I walked back into the airport a changed person. I had an added spring in my step, a special sparkle in my eyes, and memories that I would cherish for the rest of my life.
The Amazing People
The Earthwatch Institute engages people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. I had the honor of meeting nine other teenagers from around the country who were each amazing and inspirational in their own ways. Being the only one from New York, I learned a lot about different cultures of various states; it was truly exciting to learn about new types of food, music, and hobbies. Even with our differences, I had something in common with every person, and as a group we all had a shared passion and love for the environment. Whether one of our team members was trapped waist-deep in mud or we were cooking dinner as a group, we learned to help each other and work together as a cohesive team. We all built special bonds of friendship that are sure to outlast the tests of time.
I was most excited to tell everyone back home about the relevance and importance of the research that I had the opportunity to be a part of. This expedition exposed me to a new type of research, - field research - which was an incredible amount of fun. When we were out in the Georgia marshes, I was able to explore nature and collect scientific data that would ultimately help make a difference. Under the patient and watchful eyes of the Principle Investigators, I learned how to use a dumpy level and measure the salinity of water. Additionally, I gained priceless experience with the coring equipment and the GPS, and even learned how to take a modern transect of a marsh.
Our Principal Investigators, from the University of Pennsylvania and West Chester University, were all tremendously passionate about the research we were conducting and their optimism definitely rubbed off on us. I was extremely surprised to find out that many towns on the Atlantic coast do not have elevation measures or accurate data for sea level.
Living on Long Island, the issue of sea level rise is of special importance. Surrounded on all sides by water, a rise of merely a few inches would result in the loss of thousands of homes. Therefore, the information that we were collecting had an added importance; by finding the sea level and elevation of coastlines we were creating a database that future scientists could refer to. Furthermore, the cores that we took would allow scientists to analyze the change in sea level over the past 10,000 years and make more accurate predictions for the future.
In addition to learning a myriad of things about the reconstruction of sea level, I also learned many life lessons during my two weeks in Georgia. More than ever, I understood the ability that scientific discovery has to help people and positively impact the world. Additionally, I experienced firsthand the link between perseverance and success. After spending two weeks in the marshes, the value of teamwork was also clearly evident; I learned that when working together with others, anything is possible and also quite enjoyable. I'm not sure whether it was the heat and humidity, but coring in the marshes with everyone seemed less like work and more of a fun activity, and it definitely brought us together.
Since we worked very hard in the field, the Principal Investigators set up several activities for us to have fun. Before we leveled Tybee Beach, we went on a private tour and even got to hold a Cone Jelly that had washed up. Another night, our entire group went on a sunset dolphin cruise during which we saw picturesque views and lots of wildlife. To celebrate the Fourth of July, we spent the day in the charming city of Savannah and watched a stunning fireworks display. Spending time at our beautiful waterfront house was also extremely enjoyable. Whether we were playing pool, listening to music, playing charades, or cooking, our group always seemed to have a great time. We also spent a lot of time outside playing ultimate Frisbee, hanging out in the boathouse, and sitting out on the dock where we would occasionally see dolphins swim by.
I was extremely excited for my SCAP expedition and my expectations were not only met, but exceeded. I had the opportunity to work with world-renowned scientists, learn field research techniques, and live in a beautiful house with nine other students who soon became my best friends. I am immensely thankful for this amazing Earthwatch experience as it has been truly life-changing.
Ruchi Shah is a junior at Sachem High School North.