Week 16!

What have I been up to at Williams-Mystic?

We just finished Week 16 (yikes) of 17.  We really can’t figure out where all the time went.  Our biggest academic assignments we have been working on our science research papers, history research papers, and policy papers.  I guess I haven’t talked that much about academics here but since that’s all I’ve been doing for the past two weeks, I might as well talk about what I’ve been working on now!

For science, I have been working with a science partner, doing a research project measuring the water velocity at various points around the Seaport.  We are using this data to determine if erosion is happening at the Seaport.  We have mainly found that there isn’t really erosion happening, but through some qualitative interviews we’ve done with Seaport employees, we learned that storm surge and flooding is a more pertinent issue.  We will present our research to our classmates and professors, and get to learn about what everyone else has been researching, as well!

For my 15-page history research project, I looked at various black sailors during the 18th and 19th centuries.  Even when slavery was legal, there were many black sailors who were either sold to work on ships, or escaped and then joined crews.  The maritime environment tends to create a culture of equality (or, near equality), so working on a ship could mean much better treatment for black men.

For my policy paper (which was 30 pages, ten more than it probably should have been), I looked at all of the chemical pollution that occurred around Houston, Texas due to Hurricane Harvey in fall 2017.  This storm was such a devastating disaster but left the mainstream media pretty quickly, and it was fascinating to do research on the effects of the storm.  For this paper, we had to interview stakeholders, which mean I talked to a variety of people, including former EPA employees, environmental activists, and a really cool Harris County attorney.  Although talking on the phone does make me a bit nervous, I really enjoyed talking to people and listening to what they had to say about my issue.  For the paper, we also had to research the pertinent rules and law for our issue, as well as providing a policy recommendation.  It was by far the most intense research project I’ve ever had to do, and definitely the most rewarding.

A few recent highlights –

Surfing! – Our history professor/surfer extraordinaire took us surfing in Narraganset, RI last weekend!  It was so COLD, but we were completely suited up in neoprene.  It was hard to try and catch waves while wearing what felt like a water-filled bag on your body, but it was fun and at least we were warm!  It was such a cool opportunity.

Wetsuits are tricky.

Donut cake!!? – Our classmate’s mom did something incredible and delivered a donut cake, which was a donut shaped like a sailboat!  It was an incredibly kind gesture as well as a great study/sugar break.

It is so CRAZY to think we’ve been here almost 17 weeks!  We have done so much in this program, so many things I would had never thought I would be able to do – including, but not limited to, sailing on a tall ship, seeing WHALES, going on a swamp tour in Louisiana, writing a ten page paper on Moby-Dick, sailing and capsizing in the Mystic River, and befriending an amazing group of people from all over the country.

This program is a TON of work.  But in 20 years, I’m not going to remember the countless nights (and days) I spent in the lab or at the dining room table, working on a 15 or 30 page research project.  I will, however, remember the three amazing field seminars, playing in the snow during our March snow day, surfing with our history professor, and getting soup at Mystic Soup Co.  Also, I definitely won’t forget many late-night Carr House tire swings.

Despite feeling stressed and crazy a few times, I mostly feel so incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to experience all of the amazing and wonderful things that came out of this semester, and was able to share it with my shipmates.






Week 14, Moot Court, and all that good stuff

We survived Moot Court?  Long live the feds!

That’s right, we managed to make it through the stressful, intense week that is Moot Court, and found a way to have some laughs along the way.  Our Moot Court, which is an excursive generally done in law schools, was an appellate court regarding beach access in Wells, Maine.  Two three-hour preparation sessions with our professor and lots of stressful moments later, we arrived looking our best and ready to give our arguments in front of a (real life!) judge.  The class was split up to represent the two sides, The People (the government) and Edward Bell (the landowners).  Each argument had an opener/closer and three arguments, which three people were responsible for.  It was really only about 7 minutes per person, and even less time with questions from the judge.  It was SCARY to argue in front of the judge, but it was also unexpectedly invigorating.

The value of this exercise really lies in learning how to advocate for yourself and fight for something you believe in.  It was scary, stressful, but most of all, it was a ton of fun.

(I was on the government team, and we won, if that wasn’t already obnoxiously obvious.)

Another highlight of this week was more science, this time, also by boat!  Williams-Mystic has a small research powerboat that we were able to go out on with our professor to do some testing!  This also meant we had to radio the drawbridge, which was incredibly exciting. 


Lastly, from tango dancing in California to Cajun dancing in Louisiana, we found ourselves at the Contra dance at the German Club next to Albion House.  It was SO MUCH FUN.  It was also much more physically demanding than I thought it would be.  There was a lot of spinning; I was dizzy pretty much the entire time.

It was so nice to try something new and spontaneous, and meet people who came from all over for this contra dance, which was literally right next to all of our houses.  I’ll have to look for some more contra dances wherever I go next!

Tango in California.

Cajun dancing in Louisiana.

Contra dance at the German Club! Plus $3 apple pie!   

Week 12/13

Hello again! Adittedly, it has been a bit since my last post.  Wow, have we had a lot to do over the past few weeks.  In the time between turning in drafts, anxiously awaiting our upcoming Moot Court and working on my Moby Dick paper, I thought I’d share some highlights of everything that’s been going on here!

First of all, Family and Friends Day was a success!  We revealed the name of our kayak, which we came up with at about 11pm the night before.  She’s called the Scuddinier, after two of our professors who are spending their last semester at Williams-Mystic with us.  All the parents/family/friends got to walk around the Seaport that day.

On the MORGAN!

It was a completely beautiful day, probably the best we’ve had all semester.  We also got to watch the Field Seminar slideshow, which was really fun.  Afterwards, we ate lunch and got a brief tour of the Seaport from our history professor.  That night at Johnston House, we decided to host a potluck that way everyone could be together.  We had a few parents/families join and a professor, and it was super fun!  The next day the temperature was in the 30’s, which my Southern California-hailing parent’s weren’t so happy about.

Drawbridge was up for the first time all year!

Iconic photo of our professor Mary K 

Johnston House cuddle puddle (?) after the parents left

Then, this week hit and we had two 15-page plus drafts due!  When I wasn’t sitting staring at my computer, here’s what happened:

It was cold and rainy all day Monday, but then the sun came out just before sundown and I had to take a picture.  It *seems* like it’s spring now, but we aren’t holding our breaths.

Skills have been good! Our kayak, now the Scuddinier, actually looks like a real kayak you’d want to put in the water.  And finally, we were able to go out sailing.  We did capsize, though.  It was cold!  Here’s a photo of me wearing my sailing instructor’s clothes on my way home.

Viking ship – uncovered for the spring/summer season!

Beautiful Earth Day beach cleanup at Weekapaug, RI!


Louisiana Field Seminar!

…And just like that, we only have six more weeks here at Williams-Mystic!

We just returned from our Louisiana Field Seminar, the final field seminar of the program.  Although all three field seminars are quite different from one another, this one was so sharply contrasted by just having been on the Pacific Coast a week earlier.  I’ll admit that I wasn’t quite prepared for the field seminar, but with each day being packed full of activities and visits with different people, I found the trip to be completely immersive.

After arriving in Louisiana, our first stop was to a levee on the Mississippi.  We had lectures from our professors while we watched huge barges and oil ships pass by.  It was really strange to be in such a different environment.  First of all, it was WARM–something we have not experienced in Mystic so far.  There’s also just something very calming and humbling about being near the water, especially a body like the Mississippi River, which is huge, powerful, and holds a huge amount of history.

Next, we drove to Zam’s, where we went on a swamp tour on a pontoon boat.  It was very exciting, and our host, ZZ, who the program has known since he was a little kid, was amazing.  We saw lots of alligators, and some turtles and birds, including a bald eagle.  It was wild to be in the bayou, somewhere where I can’t say I’ve spent much time before.  We also went into the backyard to see some adorable baby goats, baby gators, and HUGE adult gators.  There was also an alligator snapping turtle, which was super freaky looking.  It was so fun to interact with the animals (not the big gators!), and see ZZ interact with them as well, as in, he was inside the fence with the gator, sticking twigs into its mouth.

On our way to LUMCON, the marine consortium for Louisiana universities where we stayed, we stopped for dinner.  The food on this trip was so good.  Mostly fried, and very delicious.  Although I’d been to New Orleans in the past, I had never really experienced Cajun culture before.  Cajun culture permeates almost every aspect of life in Southern Louisiana, from food, to language, to just the way that people interact with each other, and it was amazing to see that firsthand.

We are so fortunate that our professors, primarily Professor Katy Robinson Hall, have made so many valuable personal connections with the people with whom we visit.  Seeing her meet our hosts is like watching her greet a family member.  I think it’s part southern hospitality, part Katy being an incredible and caring person.

That first evening, we had a brief introduction to Cajun dancing from our professor Glenn, who taught the tango session in California.  We were also accompanied by our literature professor’s husband, who is an ethnomusicologist and professional musician, so he played while we danced.  (We brought an accordion packed in a lunchbox on the plane, I thought that was so funny.)

The next morning, I woke up to thunder and lightening that was literally shaking the building.  Thankfully, the rain stopped and we went kayaking out into the marsh to look at snails, take the depth, and take core samples.  The core samples are a really interesting  visual way to track the changes over time in the environment, which can be seen in the color and texture of the sediment.  We also ate some dirt for science!

After we got back and hosed down (we were all very muddy), we drove around some of the fishing camps, where people have vacation homes and go fishing, and then we had lunch at a dock behind a convenience store where we made friends with a chihuahua.  After lunch, we drove to Dulac, where we met Chief Shirell, the chief of Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians.  She spoke with us about the struggles her community has faced with trying to receive federal recognition, as well as how landloss had affected their land and their tribal burial grounds.  She, her son, and Miss Marlene, a member of the tribal council, joined us for dinner.  It was an amazing experience to speak with them, and understand how much they care about their community and want their children to excel and have every opportunity any other child would have.  After dinner, we drove to the Jolly Inn in Houma, where we did some Cajun dancing with our hosts, two elderly couples.  They were great dancers, and I think most people had a lot more fun than they were expecting.  On our way back, we took a pit stop at Sonic, which was pretty exciting for me.  Our professors really do know how to have a good time.

The next morning we drove to Grand Isle, a small barrier island on the southernmost coast of Louisiana, also the location of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, which we read before our trip.  On our way there, we stopped at Port Fourchon, a huge port for the petroleum industry, which they are attempting to double in size.  At Grand Isle, we spoke with the mayor and Mr. Chris Hernandez, a town official.  They discussed the effects of storms, specifically Hurricane Katrina, their difficult relationship with the Army Corps of Engineers, and the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on their community.  Mr. Chris showed us different spots on the island that have been affected by storms and landloss, and invited us into his home, where we all ate lunch with his family.  Afterwards, we drove to the beach on Grande Isle, where we had some brief lectures from our professors about the Gulf of Mexico, and then some free time to swim.  I’d never been in the Gulf before, and it was so much fun and so warm!  I was also in awe that I get college credit for being at the beach?  And walking in the Redwood forest and sailing in the Caribbean??

That night, we drove back to Cocodrie and had a seafood boil for dinner!  It was shrimp and crawfish, and though a bit tricky to figure out how to consume, it was absolutely delicious.  After dinner, we had a presentation from a former fisherman/LUMCON employee about alligatoring, and then did an around-the-room perspectives, as we did in California, where we talked about what has been most impactful to us on this trip.  It was really interesting to hear how much people enjoyed this field seminar, and all for different reasons.

The next morning, we were up at 5 a.m. to spend the day in New Orleans.  We went to the Louisiana State Museum, where we visited the Hurricane Katrina exhibit, which was extremely informational and very well done.  After that, we had some free time in which we consumed many beignets at Cafe du Monde.  Next, we boarded the Natchez, a stern-wheeler steamship.  It was really fun to be on board, learn about the ship, which is one of only six steam sternwheelers currently on the Mississippi, and explore the engine room.  We also ate lunch on board, which was delicious.  We had a bit more free time in the city until we departed for the airport.

It’s crazy to think that this trip was only four days.  We did so much, and there wasn’t even time for me to think about how tired I was.  It is amazing how much we’ve connected with our professors over the course of these seminars, and how much our class has grown together.  We might be even a bit too comfortable with each other now.  There’s something about this trip that I think is really conducive to bonding and just generally feeling grateful for one another.  Katy’s relationships with our hosts here and them sharing their culture and hospitality with us was a truly unforgettable experience, and I feel so so lucky to have had the opportunity to listen to people’s stories and connect in a way that really shows the power of human empathy.  Although we have a LOT of work to do before the semester is complete, I know that these shared experiences we all have from being offshore and being on the road together will make it a lot easier to support one another during the grind.

California Field Seminar

It has been only a few days since we returned from our eight-day-long California Field Seminar, and we leave for Louisiana in less than a week, which doesn’t give me much time to reflect on our West Coast experience or to write this post!  Since the pace of our trip was much different than our Offshore Seminar (and not inhibited by seasicknesses), I’ve had more time to think about how I want to portray this experience.

I’ve decided to break the trip up into three different sections: Monterey, San Francisco, and Bodega Bay.  These are the primary locations where we stayed, though we traveled around almost every day.


We spent the first two nights of the trip in Monterey.  Our first stop after we landed in SFO was the Pacific Ocean.  Many of my peers had never seen the Pacific before.  We went to Pomponio State Beach which was incredible and just before we were about to sit down on a bluff for a lecture, we saw a whale just offshore!  It was absolutely breathtaking. 

I lived in California for 18 years, and had never seen a whale until this moment.  The excitement and awe of the group felt palpable to me.  What a wild way to start our week on the Pacific Coast!  At dinner that night, we saw sea otters, which I had also never seen in the wild.  I honestly didn’t really know how I felt about traveling to my home state with my peers and professors.  I think I felt apprehensive because I was worried that the information I would receive on the trip would somehow change the way I perceived California.  But at this moment, of looking out at whales in the HUGE blue ocean, I felt more confident than ever that I could both appreciate my past knowledge and love for California, and expand what I know about it. 

That night, our professors treated us to ice cream at Ghirardelli on Cannery Row.

The next day, we visited Point Lobos, did a walking tour of Monterey near Fisherman’s Wharf, and went on a whale watching tour, where we saw seven humpback whales and no one got seasick!  All around, a great experience.

The most impactful part of being in Monterey for me was our walking tour of Cannery Row and the lectures our professors gave there.  For our third and final day in Monterey, we visited several sites that are along Cannery Row and mentioned in John Steinbeck’s novel.  We saw Ed Rickett’s Pacific Biological Laboratories, Wing Chong’s Market, the Lone Star Cafe, and several canneries that are mentioned in the book.  I had never experienced anything quite like this––reading about something in a book, discussing its importance in class, and then visiting it in person.  Afterwards, we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

This same day, we also visited Elkhorn Slough, part of a wildlife area, and a W-M alumn gave a brief talk about the work she’s been doing in that area.   Our last stop that day was at Pescadero Beach, where I bravely decided to take a dip in the ocean, which was COLD, but worth it.  We spent the night at Half Moon Bay and then drove up to San Francisco the next morning.

San Francisco

The first thing we did in San Francisco was go aboard a Crowley tug boat for a ride around the bay.  Thomas Crowley, Jr., the grandson of the founder, is a good friend of the program and kindly lets us board their vessels (which is generally a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most!).  It was absolutely an incredible time.  I must admit I knew very little about tugboats and their role in the maritime world before this experience, and being on a tug was completely immersive.  It was amazing witnessing the crew in their element and talk to the captain about the responsibilities of keeping everyone and every vessel safe in some of the busiest harbors in the world.

After departing Crowley, we went on our walking tour of what used to be the Barbary Coast, which was cut short by the rain.  It is hard to absorb information during a downpour.  We had the night off, so a bunch of us went out to dinner to celebrate a classmate’s birthday!

The next morning, we drove up to the Marin Headlands, after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, where we got to admire (foggy) views of the city, and also had lectures at Battery Spencer.  Next, we drove to China Camp, a historic shrimp fishing camp.  We ate lunch and had lectures, as well as plenty of free time to look for cool rocks and pick up trash on the beach.

Bodega Bay

From here, we drove to Bodega Bay, where we would stay at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab for the next three nights.  We walked around a nearby cove, where I found a cute crab claw.

The next day, we drove to Tomales Bay to visit the Hog Island Oyster Company which was without a doubt my highlight of the trip.  I had never had oysters before, and it was fascinating to learn how they raise and farm oysters, and very exciting to learn how to shuck and eat them!

Afterwards, we went to Point Reyes, said to be the windiest place on the Pacific Coast.  First, we ate lunch at the visitor center, where we were able to walk the Earthquake Trail, where a the San Andreas Fault lies.  Point Reyes itself was incredibly windy and beautiful, and, yet again, we saw a whale!  Next, we went to Drakes Bay, where Sir Frances Drake first landed on the Pacific Coast.  That night, back at the marine lab, our professor taught us the Argentine tango!  While I can’t say I perfected it in the mere hour or so we spent learning the basic steps, it was super fun and certainly a bonding moment.  This same professor, Glenn, is retiring after this semester, and throughout the trip, our other professors had asked past students to send voice messages describing their fondest memories of West Coast field seminars with Glenn.  It was so wonderful to hear how impactful these experiences were on former W-M students, and I feel so grateful to be part of Glenn’s last semester here.

The following day, we visited three distinctly different locations: the rocky intertidal zone, Fort Ross, an 1800’s Russian fort, and the Armstrong Redwood Grove.  The rocky intertidal zone was amazing, and we spent basically the whole time exploring the creatures all around.  We found (part of) a Giant Pacific Octopus!  Fort Ross was an exceptional demonstration of the impact that the Russians had on the Pacific Coast, primarily through the fur trade, which decimated the native otter population.  And the redwoods, of course, were exceptional.  It was also a wonderful thing to watch my classmates experience the redwoods for the first time, many who said here they felt connected to nature like they never had before.

That evening, we watched Hitchcock’s The Birds, which takes place in Bodega Bay.  Not as scary as my mom made it out to be…  But I definitely viewed the local birds in a more skeptical light the next day.

For our last day in Bodega Bay, we had a free day.  We had a few different options of some actives, and I chose to kayak.  It was very fun and relaxing to kayak around the bay; we paddled to a beach where we found a geocache!

After our free time was over, we traveled from Bodega Bay back to San Francisco, where we had our final around-the-room, where we all got the opportunity to share the most meaningful/exciting/impactful moment of this trip.  Now that I look back on it, I think what really stood out to me about this trip is that it was an interdisciplinary learning experience with a truly lasting effect.  The feeling of being on a bluff or a beach, listening to professor lecture about different topics, all of which happened here, is something that cannot be replicated.  For all the work and all the readings that we do, everything was coming together, and I was making cross-discipline connections that are sure to last for a long time.

…And, in traditional Williams-Mystic fashion, we got up at 0315 the next day to depart for the airport….

Perhaps the most Williams-Mystic photo ever.

Snow Day!

As we prepare to depart (at 3:30 am!) for our California Field Seminar tomorrow, I wanted to share an exciting aspect of this past week: a snow day!  I had never experienced a snow day before, so this was super exciting for me.  We had found out that the next day’s classes were called off the evening before, so we knew ahead of time.  The majority of the day was mostly spent admiring the amount of snow pouring from the sky and doing homework.  This week we had Policy research proposals due and a science exam, so although it was nice to have the day off, I still had lots to do.  In the afternoon, we assembled for a snowball fight!  I love playing in the snow, since I hadn’t really been exposed to that much snow until I started college.  Our professor challenged our class and the other faculty to a snowman building contest.  We spent a lot of time working on our snowman, and in my opinion, she really deserved the win.

We will be on our California Field Seminar for just over a week, and I will also be doing an Instagram takeover on @globalskidmore so feel free to take a look starting next week!


What I Ate in a Week: W-M Edition

This week, I’ve decided to show you what I ate in a week(ish) at Williams-Mystic!  The program provides us with $60/week per person for groceries.  Each house appoints a treasurer to deal with finances.  We usually have a significant amount of money left over each week that goes to additional grocery runs or when our housemate kindly offers to bike to CVS to get us candy at 8pm on a Friday night…  My house, Johnston House, does all of its shopping as a whole.  Instead of dividing up the $60/person, we pool the money and buy things that everyone likes.  We have managed thus far without a cooking schedule, although that is something most of the houses do.  They will assign one person to cook per night, usually Monday-Thursday, and then the rest of the meals are leftovers or on your own.  I think it is likely that as the semester picks up will will assign some sort of cooking schedule, but as of now, we just communicate who’s available, and those that are free help with cooking.

This “What I Ate in a Week” goes from Sunday to Friday(ish).  It was very hard for me to remember to take photos and turns out it is really hard to take appetizing photos of food, even though my Instagram feed would make me think otherwise!

So here goes…

Sunday: Sunday brunch at Rise, a local restaurant in town.  This eggs Benedict was delicious!  The hollandaise sauce was really tangy and I love a good brunch salad, as well.  10/10 will be going back, although it seems like the brunch options are endless in Mystic.

Another thing I failed to do was remember to take pictures of my snacks, which are very important to me!  Also disclaimer – this post does not accurately display EVERYTHING I ate in a week!  I am constantly snacking, which can be hard to keep track of.

On Sunday afternoon, I had a snack of a matcha smoothie that I made with almond milk, ice, a banana, matcha powder, and honey.  I was on a huge matcha trip for a while, but unfortunately, I ran out (and that stuff is expensive!), so if there is anyone out there that would like to #sponsor me, please reach out at oglaser@skidmore.edu.  Thanks…  I also ate string cheese, because protein.

For dinner, my housemate cooked amazing fried chicken, and I cooked these oil-free potato wedges, which I boiled until I could pierce them with a fork and then baked them at 425 degrees until they were crispy(ish).  I also put together this little salad of spinach, kale, shredded carrots, and apple slices.  Also, apparently this was the week that I started putting hot sauce on my food with every meal.  Stay tuned.

Monday: For breakfast on Monday I had a newly-created but classic meal: honey nut cheerios with sliced banana, almond milk, a bit of peanut butter mixed it.  It’s so good.  Just try it, trust me.  

For lunch I had turkey, cheddar, kale, lettuce, and dijon mustard on a honey wheat wrap, with some olives on the side.  It looks kind of sad but it was very delicious.  We go through deli meat like water in this house, so I try to get a bit whenever I can.

For dinner, my housemate cooked chicken and vegetable soup.

Tuesday: For breakfast I had an egg in a hole/gopher in a hole/scout’s egg, whatever you’d like to call it.  This pumpernickel rye bread from Big Y is AMAZING; I think we’ve picked it up for three consecutive weeks.  I also had a lot of hot sauce, as you can probably see.  And a kiwi.

For lunch, I had a bean and cheese quesadilla with kale.  And hot sauce.  And hot sauce mixed with salsa.

For dinner, which was pretty rushed, as I met with a professor around 8:15, was veggie pasta with pesto, kale, and parmesan.  It was so good.  I would eat this for every meal if I could.

Wednesday: For breakfast I had overnight oats.  I make this the night before with equal parts oats and almond milk, a bit of honey, and cinnamon.  Then in the morning I chopped up an apple, added some peanut butter, and more cinnamon, and I was good to go!  Pro tip: save your empty Teddy’s peanut butter jars for portable oats!

For lunch I had an egg sandwich (because I love eggs) with cheddar, kale, and HOT SAUCE.  I took some of my housemate’s steamed kale that she was making, and it was a good move.  This was also the week that we ate a lot of kale, I guess.  Side note – Johnston House has a reputation as being vegetarian (which we are not), and healthy.  We may or may not be healthy – that’s up for you to decide.

For dinner, my housemate Audra and I whipped up some taco things, including ground turkey meat with taco seasoning, rice, mushrooms, onions, and peppers, and black beans.

Thursday: For breakfast I had a smoothie bowl with frozen fruit and almond milk.  I added some leftover granola we had, and chia seeds.  Also, the portion was huge, I just didn’t remember to take a picture until I had eaten almost all of it.

For lunch I had fried leftover rice with leftover veggies and scrambled egg.

For dinner, my housemate cooked lentil curry.  As you can probably tell, I forgot to take a picture of my actual bowl which is why this is a picture of the bottom of the pot it was cooked in.  Whoops.  Anyways, it was delicious.

Friday: For breakfast I had more overnight oats.  This time with more peanut butter, a bit of Nutella, and some frozen blueberries which defrosted pretty quickly after I mixed them in.  11/10 would recommend.  So delicious.

For lunch, I had leftover lentils, and that is where this “What I Ate in a Week” ends!  A week until we leave for our Northern California Field Seminar!

Snacks and Kayaks

Hello!  Another week, another blog post.  This week was quite busy, as we had our History essay and Oceanography research project proposal due!  Now that those are out of the way, we only have one more task to do: make policy snack.  The time has come for Johnston house to provide a snack that can feed 21 people and is also related to our Policy topic of the week, “Protection of Coastal Habitats: Federal and State Jurisdiction.”  This topic mostly talked about how we define waterways, navigable waterways, and what the repercussions would be if we allowed dredged or filled materials in wetlands.

Here’s how the actual process went down (and boy was it a process):

After dinner, at around 7, we started strategizing on how we would assemble our snack.  We decided to try and bake an oat cobbler in a cake pan, and then we would decorate it with various fruits that resembled a wetland.  The cobbler would give structure and substance to the snack.  What ended up really happening was that we were missing some of the integral ingredients to bake a successful cobbler, so it ended up with the smoke detector going off.

After that disaster, we settled for a fruit arrangement.  It was actually really fun to design and put together.  We used the blueberries as water, apples as wetlands, and strawberries as various flora.  We also constructed to Navy ships out of pineapple spears.


We used pretzels to act as a Naval pier, as well.  So post-cobbler disaster, it actually came together quite nicely.  In the morning, we brought over yogurt and Nutella to dip, as well as the rest of the pretzels.  Getting the snack to the Seaport was a bit tricky, as we had to walk in the midst of a huge storm.  Thankfully, the umbrella came in handy to shield our precious snack from the wind and rain!

Also, if you were wondering how my Boatbuilding skills class has been, look no further!  We have been working away at standing and stitching our boat together, so now it actually does resemble a vessel.  It takes quite a while to stitch and entire kayak, especially when I accidentally stitched a panel upside down….  Regardless, the process has been quite fun!  An interesting challenge came up during Wednesday’s class, when we had to align all the pieces in preparation to fiberglass it.  It was tricky to line everything up so that the boat sat level from bow to stern and port to starboard.  Our instructor ended up drilling in a wedge in the stern to prevent the two sides from overlapping.  Moving forward, we will be welding (using epoxy to glue the stitches), sanding, fiberglassing, and painting.  It will be quite a process, especially if the weather gets really nice and we would get some sailing time in!

For one of my work times this week, I actually ended up working in the sailing center doing some research on local yacht clubs that have Dyer Dhows in their fleet.  Here is a photo that I took from my view at work, potentially my favorite photo I have taken at the Seaport thus far:

W-M Weekly Highlights


I decided that this week, I would feature some of the highlights of this past week at Williams-Mystic.

On Sunday, as I mentioned in my previous post, we went over to the program director’s house for the first annual chili cookoff!  It was so wonderful to be invited to his house; we were there with some of our professors and program administrators and their spouses and children.  Each house was responsible for bringing a chili to be judged, and a variety of toppings, snacks, and desserts (s’mores!) were provided.  We were confident that our chili was good, but weren’t sure how it would measure up to the other chilis.  Ours was a chicken chili, and there was also a beef, pork, and venison chili.  It was a close race, but we ended up winning!  Every house got a prize, and our winning prize consisted of a gift card to Mystic Soup Co, a chili cookbook, tortilla chips, and hot sauce.  We wrote down our winning recipe in our house notebook so that future Johnstonites can continue our legacy!

Monday was Chinese New Year, and our neighbors at Carr House invited us over to celebrate with them!  Our shipmate Wenting cooked us a traditional New Year’s dinner.  She explained that in China, soft foods are considered more delicious than hard or crunchy foods, and than on Chinese New Year, people eat primarily round foods, to symbolize family, which is supposed to be free of hard or sharp edges.  She cooked tofu and vegetables, eel, steamed vegetable buns, rice dumpling, and chicken wings.  It was all so delicious!










Policy snack!  Our policy snack this week was provided by Carr House.  It was a beautiful arrangement of a ship, which had transported an invasive species which was (brutally) wiping out the native species.  Our policy lecture this week was given by James T. Carlton, Professor Emeritus of the program.  He previously taught Marine Ecology, and now he works in the lab doing research on invasive species and, more recently, the effects of the 2011 tsunami in Japan.


Another important highlight to note: the release of our photos from our Offshore Voyage!  They are amazing photos, and here are some of the ones I wanted to share:

It is honestly a little weird to look back on all the photos, because the whole experience seems so surreal now.  We are truly in the full swing of classes (essays, readings, and research proposals), skills classes, and starting our work-study jobs.  Life on Cramer was so vastly different from daily life on land, and I loved it.  It is so amazing that we have this shared experience to talk (which we do, often), reminisce, and laugh about.

Another new thing I did this week was start at my work-study job!  I am working in Museum Education, which, this week, involved bundling summer camp brochures that will be sent to local schools.

It was actually really fun, and my supervisor is a Williams-Mystic alum, so we have a lot to talk about!

Despite all the work we’ve been bombarded with over the last week, we still managed to make time to get out and have a bit of fun!  This weekend was 15th Annual Cabin Fever Festival, which is a chowder festival benefiting an organization that prevents family homelessness in the region.  The festival was at the Olde Mistick Village, which is about a 15 minute walk from our houses.  It was very similar to Saratoga’s Chowderfest, except there were more dogs and it wasn’t snowing.  It was extremely crowded, so we were only able to try two chowders, and they were both very good!


Later that day, we hosted a girl’s night at Johnston House, which consisted of playing a lot of games and eating a lot of snacks.  And some karaoke….

I think this photo is a pretty accurate description of what the night was like!  It was really fun to get together with everyone, even if we did have to exile the boys from our house.

In terms of the scope of the program, we are just about to begin Week 6 (of 17), and we depart for our California Field Seminar at the end of Week 8.  We will have a few essays due within that time period, as well as an Oceanography exam, and beginning to organize our research project proposals and figure out how we will be collecting data!  My partner and I are interested in looking at erosion, either on the Seaport property or at the Barn Island Salt Marsh, and comparing the current erosion patterns to historical records.  It’s a big task, but we are exciting to see where it takes us!

Also, my shipmate and housemate Audra, who works as the program’s social media intern, has been writing blog posts featuring different S’18 students, and I was lucky enough to be featured this week!  This link will take you there!  Hope you enjoy!


What are classes at Williams-Mystic really like?

With this week being the first week of real classes, including skills classes, I thought I would give the inside scoop on what it’s really like to be sitting in the Mason room/Carlton classroom with 19 other Williams-Mystic students!

Every W-M student takes Literature of the Sea, Maritime History, and Marine Policy.  These classes take place in a large classroom around a table, and all students attend the same class.  Science classes are split up between Oceanographic Processes (more earth science/geology-based) and Marine Ecology (ecology-based).  I am in Oceanographic Processes.  Both classes are focused around creating an original science research project, which require students to go out in the field to collect data and conduct research.  Student also takes a skills class, which include Shipsmithing, Chanteys: Music of the Seas, Canvas Work, Ship Carving, and Basic Boatbuilding and Watercraft Skills (my skills class).  This week we also had the opportunity to select a work study job for the semester.  I was assigned to work in museum education, which I am very excited about!

This semester, Literature of the Sea and Maritime History take place on Monday/Wednesday in the morning; each class is an hour and 15 minutes.  We also have our skills classes on Monday and Wednesday afternoon, and each skill has its own meeting time. Science classes meet on Tuesday and Thursday, and each class will usually meet for a lab or independent research time once a week in the afternoon after a lecture.  Marine Policy meets for three hours on Friday mornings, and visitors frequently come to class to lecture.

For Literature, History, and Policy classes, we walk down the street to the Seaport grounds to our classroom.  Our science classes are held in the James T. Carlton lab, which is just a jaunt from our houses.  Carlton also acts as a study space we can access at any time.  And there are usually snacks.

In Literature this week, we’ve read The Tempest and William Falconer’s “The Shipwreck: Canto II.”  One of the exciting aspects of our Literature class is that the books and poems we read often relate to our field seminars.  Coming back from our ten days at sea, The Tempest and “The Shipwreck” seem more relevant than ever.  “The Shipwreck” also contains a lot of technical sailor language, which we were actually able to understand and follow while reading after spending time aboard Cramer!

The Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling vessel in the country.

In our History class, we’ve been discussing the beginnings of ocean sailing, trade routes, and also the local history.  The battle of Mistick Fort, fought by American colonists and Pequot natives, took place in Mystic.  This area was the home of the Pequot Native Americans, so there is much local history to be discovered.  One of our main projects of the semester is to give an oral presentation on an assigned object.  These museum “objects” include houses, boats, and physical tools, uniforms, etc.  An amazing part of this program is students’ access to the Seaport Museum and its collections, and we will be able to really delve in to learning about a specific museum object for these presentations.

Taking water samples at the Mystic River.

For our science lab this week, we had a joint lab with Marine Ecology.  Our professors drove us to three different sites that we could potentially use to collect data for our research projects.  First, we drove to the Mystic River Estuary, just a few minutes from the lab.

Attempting to take a core sample at the salt marsh.

We practiced collecting water samples, and measuring pH, nitrate and phosphate, salinity, temperature, and the depth of each sample. Next, we drove to Barn Island Salt Marsh.  It is strange to be at a salt marsh in the winter, as some of the ground was frozen and some of it was flooded.  Here, we practiced taking core samples and sketching them.  Our last stop was at Napatree Beach in Watch Hill, RI.  We observed the process of longshore drift, the way that sediment gets carried around by waves.  To test this, we threw an orange into the waves and measured where it washed back up and how long it took.  And important thing to note about these labs is that we were VERY COLD the whole time.  It is quite chilly by the shore.  But completing a lab was really fun for me, and I enjoyed discovering how we can use the tools and equipment available to us to collect data for our research projects down the road.

Spider crab at Napatree!

For our Policy class this week, we actually had a substitute teacher.  Our Policy reader (we have readers for Policy, Lit, and History that are compiled by our professors) is by far the thickest out of the three.  For each lecture, we read multiple legal cases pertaining to the topic of the week.  This week the focus was on the foundations of private and public rights in coast lands and waters.  We read several cases that shaped US policy regarding these private and public riparian rights.

This weekend we will be attending a chili cookoff at the program director’s home.  Each house is responsible for bringing a chili, which will be judged and then awarded appropriately.  As the *vegetarian* house, we will be bringing a veggie chili.  Thankfully, we have cooked chili a few times so far and feel pretty confident going into the competition!  The cookoff will be a great opportunity to hang out with classmates, professors, and friends of the program!