Yet another one of New Jersey’s crop, I have lived in Mercer County right next to Trenton, NJ my entire life. Every summer since I could remember my family would vacation for a week and/or long weekends down at the Jersey Shore (before Snooki, the Situation, and the rest took it over), where my parents would take me beach bumming, crabbing, fishing, and identifying plants and animals in the bay and along the beach. No doubt the seed of my enthusiasm for marine life were planted during my younger years while digging up the tiny mole crabs in the sand and watching a school of spearing (little torpedo-like minnows) swim around me while wading in the wash.
My love of the ocean and marine life in general is only slightly greater than my interest in interactions between living organisms in an ecosystem. This is why I graduated Rutgers in 2009 with a B.S. in Ecology and Natural Resources. I had always taken as many marine courses as I could while studying ecology in the process. It gave me a unique perspective on things because there wasn’t a real marine ecology concentration, and gave me the chance to create my own course load that catered to my own interests instead of following a rigid degree format. Ranging from “Oceanographic Methods and Data Analysis” to “Ecosystems Ecology and Global Change” I tailored my courses to prepare for a graduate career in Marine Ecology wherever I chose to study. Turns out I would end up right where I started my collegiate career, Rutgers University.
During my senior year of college I had the opportunity to take part in a research cruise along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). It was a month long study part of a larger network funded by NSF to keep Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites running across United States lands. Antarctica does not belong or governed by the US, but they do have a large science influence on the continent. While doing the cruise I fell in love with the entire experience and the ecosystem as well. Because of that, when Oscar Schofield the professor I was interning with at the time offered a chance to study the Antarctic marine ecosystem and become more a part of the Palmer LTER program, I couldn’t refuse. I sent in my applications and became a student at R.U. once again. Only this time I’m a graduate assistant and helping with Oscar’s Antarctic research projects as well as my thesis work on seventh continent.
After one full year of school work and lab experiments I was sent down to Antarctica to help with the field research for the entire austral summer. I left the states in October and will not return until April, and yes that does mean I wrote this article while sitting in the lounge of Palmer Station, Antarctica. This entire summer (boreal winter) I will be down here sampling the nearby waters on zodiacs, roughing the weather and extreme temperatures in search for good data. So far I am having the time of my life being only a 4 day boat ride (in good weather) away from the closest civilization, and 7,500 miles away from home.
The field team from Rutgers is keeping a RUCOLD blog at COSEENOW, and we are telling all about the Antarctic lifestyle through our eyes. (A little self promotion never hurt anybody, right?)
A few other fun facts about me: I enjoy watching and playing sports especially football. Also, I have taken ballroom dancing classes and really enjoy it even though I’m still far from good at it yet. I love Italian food, and it probably has something to do with my heritage but I’ve never complained. The beach is still a favorite place to go and relax whenever I need a break from everyday stresses. And that is pretty much all there is to Michael J. Garzio that’s worth repeating.