Hej, mitt namn är Michaela Modén och jag var den lyckliga mottagaren av SWEAs stipendium i år. Jag har bott i USA den största delen av mitt liv och SWEA gjorde det möjligt för mig att spendera min sommar i Sverige och göra praktik i marinbiologi. Jag går tredje året på Austin College med majors i biologi/pre-med och konst. Här kommer ett kort brev om min upplevelse in Sverige, enjoy!
I am still surprised and bewildered on how it was that I ended up researching giant Japanese oysters off the Swedish west coast this summer. About six months after beginning to email researchers asking for help in establishing an internship this summer, I found a researcher at the University of Gothenburg with an extremely interesting project willing to take me on as an assistant. I had also set up another exciting internship for the other half of my summer at the Koster Islands National Park. My fantasy to spend the summer learning and researching in Sweden was finally a tangible plan!
As a biology and art major doing pre-medical studies with far too many ideas of what I want to do with my life, these internships in marine biology gave me a chance to test out biological research. My experience this summer definitely gave me an accurate view of a career in biological research and to some extent helped me in the process of figuring out where I want to be in 5 years. My first internship with the University of Gothenburg had me traveling the Swedish west coast. We mostly went by boat to small islands and remote areas that were stunningly beautiful. I spent two weeks with the masters student finding previously studied sites and taking new measurements on the amount and age of oysters present today. These giant Japanese oysters live up to their name; we found oysters that were 32 centimeters long! These two weeks were spent living at research stations and in tiny fishing-shacks by the ocean – an experience that was absolutely fantastic for an adventurer like myself. I’ve always loved the ocean and the outdoors and this experience had me closer to both than I’ve ever been. I also had access to a marine biologist’s knowledge all day, as we were out on these islands alone for weeks. She expanded my knowledge on marine biology on a lot more than oysters (such as Swedish environmental laws). My gained knowledge also helped me tremendously during my next internship at the visitor’s center in the Koster Islands national park. I was there every day leading tours on both the land and in shallow waters teaching visitors about the marine and terrestrial life in the national park. I also worked the desk in the center where interested visitors often came in with a specimen wondering what it was or with questions that I could gladly answer with my new found knowledge of the ocean. I had a great time showing the petting aquarium to groups of excited children and adults and taking children crab fishing of the dock. Crab fishing with a clothespin and a piece of string is something I have done since I was young but which most of the children had never done. I found it extremely satisfying to spark interests about the ocean in these young children who could one day become the researchers and protectors of beautiful and valuable places like the Koster islands.
The combination of these two internships gave me an amazing experience. While the research position was more solitary and education-oriented in a sense, it was balanced by the next couple of weeks spent surrounded by hundreds of interested visitors to the national park. This summer was also very extraordinary to me because the Swedish west coast has a special place in my heart. My family has a summer house on the Koster islands and I have spent most summers of my life enjoying all that Koster has to offer. I accredit this time on the Koster islands to my love of biology and the ocean today, and to get to experience these passions in a more academic light was wonderful. I gained knowledge on the environment that I’ve always loved, making me appreciate and perhaps love it even more.
I would like to thank SWEA for the scholarship that made my adventures this summer possible. It is outstanding that SWEA can assist people like myself to connect to their Swedish roots and pursue interests that reflect the Swedish heritage and culture. My time researching in Sweden taught me vast amounts about Swedish ecosystems and I could even apply much of my knowledge from my biology courses here in the United States to what I observed while researching in Sweden. My internships consequently tied in perfectly to my current studies in college, especially since my school cannot offer courses in marine biology and up to now I have been learning mostly terrestrial biology. I was also able to greatly expand my Swedish vocabulary this summer since I was exposed to science terms and names of organisms that I am not regularly exposed to when speaking to my family. This summer was a truly extraordinary one for me; and so, once again, I thank SWEA for helping to make it all possible.
Following are a few photos of my oyster research.