Science communication


Rediscovering curiosity

As a child, I was shy, quiet, and socially awkward. So I retreated into my head and to books. For some reason, I was particularly drawn to field guides. I wanted to understand the natural world and was fascinated by the variety of everything – trees, birds, rocks, even clouds.

field guides

Armed with my guidebooks, I was always looking for “exotic” animals, like deer and fox. My family lived in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, so it wasn’t exactly the wilderness. Sadly, the local mammal community was mostly squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits. But we did have a boat and spent time exploring the Detroit River, Lake St Clair, Lake Erie, and small lakes in Michigan and Ontario. Maybe that explains how I ended up in limnology.

curiosityFuture limnologist

As I grew older, I lost interest in field guides. Then came business school and a career in public accounting that shifted to corporate finance. Fast-forward 15 years or so and I was living in Phoenix, Arizona. I made several trips to visit the Grand Canyon. The sheer magnitude and grandeur of the canyon really hits you. So much geology! During one trip, I came across a wildlife biologist with the US National Park Service. She was using radio-telemetry equipment to track captive-born condors that had been released into the wild. It was fascinating. Something about my experiences in the Grand Canyon reignited my curiosity. After a short mid-life crisis, I quit my job.

Grand CanyonSeeing the Grand Canyon for the first time made me wish I had the field guides from my childhood.

I started taking undergraduate courses at Arizona State University because it had been a while since I studied chemistry or biology. At the time, I really didn’t know where this decision would take me. I started in the laboratory of Dr. Nitrogen where I gained field and lab experience. Then I pursued Ph.D. studies with Dr. Limnology. Since leaving the business world, I haven’t looked back. And now I am in Sweden, working with the Baltic Sea environment. I am so grateful that I really love my work, something that allows me to be curious every day. 

Michelle McCrackin