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  • Ian Livingston Brooking

Coastal marine science student reflects on time in Scotland

Valerie Viscusi, a senior marine science major from Lansdale, Pennsylvania, spent the month of May across the pond in Scotland taking part in a Field Methods and Oceanographic Data Analysis Maymester.

Viscusi, who has taken trips to the Bahamas for Shark Biology, talked about why she wanted to take part in the rather-new Maymester offered by the marine science department.

“I became very interested after seeing pictures and hearing stories of how the first trip went,” said Viscusi. “This was the second year of this specific Maymester class and I heard so many great things about people’s experience last year that got me really excited. Plus, I had never been to Europe before and my mother is Scottish. So, it has always been a dream of mine.”

Scotland has a very different type of climate from what Viscusi had experienced in the Bahamas. She discussed what some of those differences are.

“Scotland was a totally difference experience from the Caribbean,” said Viscusi. “You are only in Bimini for a week whereas we were in Scotland for almost a month. In Bimini, we were always on the go. We would get up at 7:15 and be done by ten o’clock at night. However, in Scotland, we took a bus at eight in the morning to the school where our class was held, we had an hour-and-a-half for lunch and we were done close to or at five PM. So, we had the rest of the evening to go out and tour the area where we were staying. Completely different experience from my time in the Bahamas.”

While Viscusi and her classmates did spend time in classrooms and in labs, they also went out on boat trips on some of the many lochs that country from the northern part of the British Isle has to offer.

“We took a boat trip out to Loch Etive and collected water samples from a bunch of different depths,” said Viscusi. “When we got back to the lab, we would filter all these samples for chlorophyll, nutrients and whatnot. It was really cool to see your data instead of data that we would pull NOAA.”

Along with collecting water samples, the class made contour plots of the salinities and depths from the data that they collected.

Viscusi said that there wasn’t a major culture shock when touring Scotland.

“The people there weren’t all that different from Americans,” said Viscusi. “The dress the same way and the only thing I could really see a difference in was certain mannerisms and money. When it came to money, if you were paying six pounds for a meal, you paid six pounds for a meal. Everything from tip to tax was factored in. Obviously here in America, you pay six dollars for a meal at a restaurant, there is tax to be included and then a tip.”

Viscusi did say that there was one major thing that stuck out to her and it is something that she hopes businesses in the United States try to put into place. Viscusi also touched on the importance of studying abroad.

“You had to pay for a plastic bag,” said Viscusi. “They also didn’t have plastic straws. Instead, they had paper straws. That was so interesting to me. When it comes to studying abroad, I think it is very important to see what other countries are doing to help the environment and decrease their carbon footprint and see if we can try that here in the states.”

Viscusi is taking a few summer classes before going into her final semester as she graduates in December of this year. She talked about what she hopes to do within her first year of graduating.

“I am very focused on conservation, mainly wetland conservation,” said Viscusi. “So, that is what I really want to be spending my time in once I graduate from Coastal. While that isn’t Oceanographic Data Analysis, having the skills that were taught in this Maymester class really helped me gain a lot of valuable information that will be useful later on in my career.”

Viscusi said her long-term goal is move out to Oregon and get involved in wetland plant jurisdiction.

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