Maritime Meditations: Marine Biology at Wheaton and Beyond

Posted April 6, 2016 by Ari Kim '17

Tags: ,


Oceanographer Paul Snelgrove once said, “We know more about the surface of the moon and about mars than we do our own oceans.” I’ve heard this quote a lot throughout my 20 years of life, but I’ve never given it much thought. As a California kid that grew up right next to the ocean, I found it a familiar place. There was comfort in the exploration of tide pools, in hearing the waves break onto the shore, and in the feeling of beach grunge hair.

However spring break of my junior year, I found myself in South Water Caye, Belize on a weeklong trip for my marine biology course. The water looked similar to my Californian surf, but the hues were more vibrant, ranging from the deep, majestic blue of the open sea to the brilliant turquoise of the reef zones. Yet nothing could prepare me for what we found under the surface!


Every day we would set out on multiple snorkel trips into the incredible Belize reef (the second largest barrier reef behind the Great Barrier Reef). The coral mounds were teeming with organisms of all shapes, colors, and sizes. Hidden treasures could be found between the blades of the sea-grass beds, and we would often find a stingray lazily gliding across the expanse of the sand flats. We learned so much about the complexities of this one marine ecosystem over the span of those seven days, and yet I would find myself completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge that we did not explore.


As scientists, we hunt for answers and explanations to the endless mysteries that compose this complex planet we call home. Often times, however, we become caught up in our work. We neglect to step back and take in the wonder of what we’re studying. Yet, dipping under the waves, this hidden aquatic world is silent: I couldn’t even hear my own breath. As I drifted, weightless, down to the seafloor, I tried to take in as much of the splendor as I could. I clung to every second, knowing that I only had as much time as my lungs would allow. Psalm 46 became alive-- I found myself in a complete state of serenity. In this paradise, just for a few moments, I allowed myself to be overtaken by the raw beauty of Creation. Be still and know that I am God, the Creator of all, who founded the seas and established it on the waters. Selah.


Ari Kim ’17 is a biology major who traveled to Belize with Wheaton’s marine biology program this past spring break. To learn more about Wheaton’s biology major and study abroad opportunities, visit their respective websites. For more photos of the trip, click here.

Photo Captions: Ari diving; Ari takes a photo with her GoPro after scuba-diving; faculty including Dr. Raymond Lewis, associate professor of biology, examine specimens in the make-shift lab; a photo of the Belize reef.  

Wheaton College's Vanguard Gap Year Program

Posted April 1, 2016 by Seth Chun

Tags: ,

This post was written by Seth Chun, a student in Wheaton College's Vanguard Gap Year. This new program is designed for 18-20 year old high school graduates seeking a gap year experience prior to enrolling at college. With Vanguard, they are immersed in an experiential program dedicated to helping them prepare for college and find their calling in life. Living at HoneyRock, students are guided by guest facilitators and HoneyRock/Wheaton College faculty and staff. Vanguard students take three trips while in the program; here, Seth describes the cross-cultural immersion trip that took place this February. 


As Christians, we are called to intentional action, working to help others while consciously dedicated to the glorification of God. And yet, we must be certain our intentions are pure. How does one find a balance, let alone the chance, to serve deliberately? For me, that answer came in the form of Vanguard Gap Year’s international immersion trip to the Dominican Republic.

Paired with Students International, a California based non-profit, my fellow Vanguards and I were given the chance to spend two weeks working at various ministry sites around the city of Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. This opportunity was an incredible blessing, and it created an environment where we were able to fully experience another culture while utilizing our strengths and passions to work with the less fortunate. As a videography enthusiast, I got to work with Students International’s Media and Communications team to document our outreach efforts at all the sites throughout the course of our two weeks.


I was fortunate enough to work under the guidance of site leaders Michael and Matteo, two community members who embodied love and an attitude of service. Listening to the wisdom of these individuals and watching them selflessly work to better the lives of their neighbors helped me see what it truly means to work for the glory of God. Whether rich or poor, healthy or sick, light or dark skinned, Michael and Matteo interacted with and loved everyone they came across. These men seemed to fully embody Jesus’ instruction to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), living out their faith through obedience. I’m grateful to have had such an enlightening experience in the Dominican, and I hope to apply the lessons I learned there about serving others for the rest of my life.


Seth is a high school graduate enrolled in Wheaton College's Vanguard Gap Year program. Learn more about the program or refer a student on Vanguard’s website, and watch the video below for a glimpse inside the program: 

Photo Captions: Seth surveys the Dominican Republic; taking photos in the Dominican; Seth demonstrates his photography skills to an interested onlooker. 

My Own Indiana Jones Trip

Posted March 23, 2016 by Sarah Ostertag '17

Tags: ,


As a freshman and recently declared geology major, I decided to spend my summer in an archaeological excavation in Ashkelon, Israel. At the time, I thought I was signing up for an Indiana Jones kind of trip that would allow me to explore the Holy Lands while pursuing a childhood dream. However, two summers in Israel, over a year of work, and a trip to Belgium later, I realized that it has become so much more than that.

My first summer in Ashkelon was a summer of exploration: exploring the field of archaeology, new friendships, a new country, and much about myself and the person I wanted to become. Through the grueling six day work-weeks and 5am wake-up calls, I still found myself enthralled in the discoveries we were making each day, as well as deeply privileged to have the opportunity to uncover (quite literally) someone else’s story.


After that first summer, I thought I was done with archaeology, but God had other plans. Within months of starting my sophomore year, I was presented with the opportunity to serve as the student research assistant for a geoarchaeology project under Dr. Daniel Master. In conjunction with the Levantine Ceramics Project (LCP), our goal has been to acquire and create an aggregate meta-dataset on ceramic petrography (a subset of geoarchaeology in which microscopic sections of pottery are analyzed.) The LCP, once completed, will serve as a fundamental research tool for archaeologists in the Mediterranean region. It will enable those interested to view and cross-reference their colleague’s data, allowing for wider and more important historical connections to be made. Working with the LCP gave me the opportunity to travel back to Israel last summer, where I worked with researchers and peers at the excavation. It also enabled me to travel to Belgium over spring break to attend a conference to discuss the LCP database.

I cannot believe how much my Wheaton experience has been shaped by my random decision freshman year to spend a summer digging in dirt. I never expected to travel across the world for work in college, or to have the opportunity to meet so many fascinating people across diverse disciplines. I’ve learned that you never know where God is going to take you, so have faith, trust in Him, and have fun seeing how His plan for you unfolds!


Sarah Ostertag '17 is a junior geology major and international relations minor. She presented her Levantine Ceramics Project findings in a Belgium archaeology conference this March. Learn more about the Biblical Archaeology major and minor at Wheaton.

Photo Captions: Sarah riding a camel during her trip to Israel; the grid Sarah dug on; Sarah working on a section drawing of the trench she dug. 

BreakAway: Learning to Serve

Posted March 16, 2016 by Grace Gibbs '18

Tags: ,


Last spring break I traveled to Savannah, Georgia with a BreakAway team of eight students and two Wheaton staff leaders. We spent our week working for Habitat for Humanity, stocking shelves in a food pantry, tutoring at a local elementary school, and repairing and painting houses. On our off hours we toured the city of Savannah, walking down cobbled streets, trying local seafood, and visiting Tybee Island. 


The service was rewarding, the friendships strong. Even though it was only a week long trip, God worked both in us and through us. We were able to encourage the woman whose home we repaired and painted as well as a local Christian couple. This couple had an amazing house, and they would allow students serving in the Savannah area to stay with them. They told us about the summer their house caught on fire and burned to the ground. Though they were devastated, they praised God that neither of them were in the house at the time. This couple’s faith was evident as they encouraged us to always trust God. They helped me thank God for both the good times and the bad. 

It was a privilege to participate in BreakAway, to join in God’s work, and to see how he is already working. BreakAway reminded me I only need to bring a humble and willing heart and allow Christ to work through me.


Grace Gibbs is a sophomore and serves as Trip Logistics Coordinator on BreakAway cabinetBreakAway is a spring break ministry that allows students to serve in teams in different parts of the country for a week. To learn more about BreakAway, visit their website.

Photo Captions: Grace (right) paints a house on BreakAway with her fellow team members; the Savannah, Georgia 2015 BreakAway team; BreakAway cabinet 2016. 

My HNGR Experience in Nicaragua

Posted March 11, 2016 by Kelly Wilson '16

Tags: , , , ,

Wheaton's Human Needs and Global Resources program (HNGR) was in large part the deciding factor for why I came to Wheaton. I have wanted to do HNGR since I first heard about it as a junior in high school and met with former director Dr. Paul Robinson to learn more about the program. Last year, after much preparation and growth, I departed for my HNGR internship in Jinotepe, Carazo, Nicaragua to work with an incredible organization called Fundación San Lucas Nicaragua, which is a part of the Luke Society, a network of integral health-based Christian ministries directed and operated by local people. San Lucas serves rural communities in the dry-tropical, coastal region of Carazo to promote health and well-being by working in food security, water & sanitation, and risk prevention and management with a specific focus on women and children. 

As an environmental science major with a passion for agriculture and soils, I worked with the food security team, shadowing and being apprenticed by two caring and intelligent agronomists as they facilitated agricultural workshops with small-holder farmers, worked to plant, weed, and water the crops in San Lucas’s Agriculture and Appropriate Technologies Experimental Center, and responded to a crippling climate change induced drought caused by El Niño. This drought and the way that my host organization and the farmers in the communities where we worked responded to it characterized life in Nicaragua for me more than anything else. Never before have I spent so much time thinking about, asking about, and praying for rain. Rain means life for subsistence farmers who have no other means of income or sustenance but for the basic grains they are able to cultivate on their small plots of land. When the rain fails to fall, everything is lost: seed, food, water. Drought devastates and the most vulnerable suffer. I learned though, that drought does not have the last word – life does. When all else failed, faith sustained. Together with the farmers and coworkers I befriended, I learned how to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not be in want” with trust while lacking the basic necessities for life.

Kelly Wilson '16 is a senior studying environmental studies. Learn more about Wheaton's HNGR program on their website

Photo caption: Kelly working in the field with Fundación San Lucas Nicaragua during her HNGR internship in Nicaragua in 2015.

Media Center