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Kent Island isolates and inspires

Students study poetry, science during summer program

September 8, 2017

Courtesy of Zoe Wood
Six student residents trudge across the island's tidal basin at low tide after returning from whale watching.

Each summer, Bowdoin offers several fellowships in biology and the humanities that enable students to conduct research or practice various arts on Kent Island. Located off the coast of Maine in New Brunswick, Canada, the 200-acre island has been home to the Bowdoin Scientific Station (BSS), since 1935.

This summer, eight Bowdoin students completed the fellowship on the island—six received the BSS fellowship and two received the Artist-in-Residence fellowship. The fellowship lasts for eight weeks and includes a stipend, transportation, meals and lodging on the island.

“There’s a lot of inspiration in the nature there. I think it’s really cool too how the fellowship and Kent Island really fuse art and science,” said Zoe Wood ’18, who researched host plants for spittlebugs on Kent Island with her BSS fellowship.

“I spent a lot of time also painting and drawing—I tried to do a painting or a drawing a day … it’s so beautiful up there that it’s hard to not see how everything can be an inspiration [not only] for artists but also scientists,” she added.

Wood applied for the fellowship because she wanted the opportunity for an immersive field experience as well as some isolation.

Despite its small size, the island served as an exciting home for the weeks Wood spent there.

“I really got to know Kent Island in a way that I haven’t been able to know other places that I’ve lived before, like Brunswick, or back home in New York or even abroad,” she said.

By the time she left, she was able to name nearly any species of animal or plant she saw while taking a walk on the island.

While Wood devoted most of her weeks on the island to measuring plant heights, searching for spittlebugs and painting and drawing in her spare time, Brennan Clark ’20 spent nearly all of his time taking photographs and writing creatively.

Courtesy of Zoe Wood

“There’s really no other grant you can get to just be paid to have as much freedom as you want to do an artistic project,” he said.

Clark explored the irony between the intense exposure to nature one encounters when arriving at Kent Island and the fact that professors and students from Bowdoin and other institutions have conducted so many tests and studies that have altered the natural make-up of the land.

“There’s really a give-take on what we’re studying with nature there and how we’re affecting the island to do it,” he said.

While Clark enjoyed the privilege of getting in touch with nature this summer, he did not have as positive of an experience as he originally had hoped.

“I think going into it I kind of romanticized what the island would be until I got there. It’s one square mile and you can’t really run because the gulls will get angry so there are not a lot of ways to exercise. There’s no option to really leave, which was really the hard part,” he said.

While Wood agreed that the experience was isolating at times, she found peace in the solitude.

“If you’re looking for that sort of thing it’s really wonderful and you can sort of detach yourself and really focus on what it is that’s happening on Kent Island and pour yourself into your project,” she said.


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