In my junior year at Saint Olaf College, I joined a literature group called Discussions in Ecology (DIE; an unfortunate acronym). Led by two devoted ecology professors, the members of DIE gathered weekly over dinner to discuss a foundational or new paper in ecology. As we were at an undergraduate‐only institution, this was our substitute for a weekly lab meeting and a way to foster community.
I had only recently switched the focus of my biology major from biochemistry, in which I was a decidedly mediocre student, to ecology. The change in academic focus was precipitated by my first field experience, assisting with a beaver population survey in northern Minnesota as a part of a January interim course. I reasoned that if I could still love a subject after 20 days of pursuing it in below‐freezing temperatures, it was worth pursuing as a career. (However, the following January I decided I had experienced enough frozen field work and took a tropical biology course instead.)
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