By now, you’re all settling into routines—sprinting from class to class, avoiding eye contact with your professors and taking notes while half-asleep. I’ve been there many times. I’m a graduate student in the biology department, so I’ve been in school for the vast majority of my life. I know how easy it is to lose sight of why you’re really here. It’s not to write assignments or memorize multiple choice answers—or, at least, it’s not supposed to be. It’s to truly experience a field of study; to immerse and test yourself; to dive in and let your curiosity loose.
Our current education system is flawed. It’s far too easy to “just keep swimming” and lose sight of your passions in day-to-day classroom routines. But if you’re lucky, you’ll get that one prof or those special TAs who make a course come to life. During my undergraduate degree, I had an enthusiastic fisheries biology professor who changed my outlook on the field completely. He brought my attention to the vast diversity of species that inhabit an overwhelming range of habitats and have numerous incredible adaptations. He also pointed out the dramatic population crashes and overfishing issues affecting our aquatic friends … And I saw an opportunity to make a difference while learning about that most exciting part of science—the part I knew nothing about.
You may not hear the words “fisheries biology” and immediately think “sexy” or “exciting” or even “bearable”, but I’ll let you in on a secret: the field of study ultimately doesn’t matter. What I’ve come to learn is that, with the proper provocation, it’s possible to find almost anything interesting. Remember when you were a kid and the worms on the sidewalk held your attention for hours at a time? You were constantly annoying your parents with “why?” and “what for?” Don’t let that childhood wonder wane with the mounting pile of schoolwork—take it upon yourself to get invested in a subject or seek out that new opportunity. Shake things up a bit and ask more questions. Get passionate about something you find interesting and seek out the answers because there’s nothing more satisfying than discovering something new. Stay curious, no matter what mundane tasks come your way.
Recently, I’ve found myself caught up in repetitive routines. So, I’m going to take my own advice and write about what keeps me curious: fisheries biology. I can only hope I’ll be able to get you as excited about it as I am. You can look forward to five more monthly installments of “Dive In,” where I’ll be talking about the power of zebrafish, the salmon life or death lottery, your fish biology professor, sick fish and more. If that’s not quite your speed, read along anyway and fish around for inspiration; you might just find some!
For now, just keep swimming—but do it with your eyes open and your questions ready. We’ll dive in next month!