Megan Roller, 16, of Algonquin, is a junior at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.
In July, she spent eight days in the Shedd Aquarium’s high school lake ecology program, which included four days of camping, kayaking and hiking. In the program, Roller and 21 other teens had to conduct research projects as well.
The ecology program, which took place on one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin, includes pre- and post-trip classes. Students engage in critical thinking, exploration of natural history and ecology, and self-reflection.
Roller recently spoke with reporter Joseph Bustos about her trip this summer and her interest in science.
Bustos: How did you get in involved in the program?
Roller: I found it on their [Shedd’s] website. I was basically looking at stuff and found it, and it looked interesting and I looked into it. ... We were doing research on the island, and I like science, I like hiking, I like camping, why not throw kayaking in there.
Bustos: What was your research project?
Roller: My research project turned out badly, because we didn’t realize the lab equipment couldn’t test for things we were testing for. We were hoping to connect the nutrients in the environment with the creatures we found there and how many. We didn’t find much, because we didn’t have much to work with.
Bustos: What was your favorite part about the trip?
Roller: After all the stuff we would do during the day, we would hang out at night. I was on an island called Oak Island ... and every night, after dinner, we would go sit on the dock and watch the sunset. Some nights we would come back to the fire and hang out and sing a few songs.
Bustos: What’s the coolest thing you saw?
Roller: We saw bears, we saw four black bears. It’s the area of the U.S. that has the highest concentration of black bears. ... The closest one was probably 10 feet [away].
Bustos: Would you ever do this again?
Roller: This is meant to be the lead-in to a program called high school marine biology, which is a bit more intense. They live on a boat instead of on land, and you need to be good at swimming, which I’m not. So I’m kind of iffy of whether I’ll do that or not.
Bustos: How much of the trip is planned?
Roller: We always talked about it the night before and did it. We just sit around after we ate dinner and talked about what we wanted to do the next day. ... Most mornings we start out with yoga, then breakfast, and we go off and do our science projects and we come back for lunch. ... Another day we did hiking. ... They mainly wanted us to have fun and do our projects, and make out of it what we would.
Bustos: What do you want to do when you grow up?
Roller: I’m not entirely sure. I’m certainly going into a science of some sort. ... Because there’s so much of the world people don’t know and we can’t be certain of anything ever. It’s just exciting.