Lucy Wanzer ’19, 2019 Watson Fellow

Lucy Wanzer

Tell us a little bit about your Watson project and where it will be taking you!

In my Watson year, I will be studying small boats in island communities in order to understand how small boats connect people to the ocean. I will search for communities who live closely with the water — from fishermen to conservationists to boat builders. By engaging with these communities, I hope to understand how small boats facilitate an intimate connection to the sea and how this connection is similar and/or different across cultures.

I plan on beginning my journey in Greece where traditional fishing vessels are still being used, and where overfishing has become a prominent issue. I hope to explore how fishing policies affect Grecian’s connections to the ocean. Next, I plan on exploring wooden boat building techniques in Southern Japan, and understand how the boat building process connects people to the ocean. I will then travel to Indonesia where small boats are a large part of everyday life — from commuting to tourism to fishing. Finally, in New Zealand and Tasmania, I will study how indigenous people use canoes in everyday life, and how the historical importance of canoes connects communities to the sea.

What (or who) are the major influences in your life that has inspired you to pursue this path?

There are so many people who have influenced me to pursue this project. First and foremost, my family with whom I grew up canoeing with year after year. They inspired in me a curiosity about the natural world, which has profoundly shaped my Watson project. Additionally, all the science teachers and professors I’ve had over the years who have taken me on field trips from Death Valley to the North Atlantic Ocean to the Maine coastline. 

How did your pre-Wellesley life influence your interest in this project? 

I have been interested in all facets of this project my whole life, but it wasn’t until I decided to apply for Watson that I sat down and really thought about how my personal and professional interests intersected. I never thought that my love for canoeing could somehow be connected to my interest in oceanography, but the process of apply for Watson forces you to think about how you past, present, and future fit together.

Growing up, I would spend weeks to months paddling canoes in the summer, and I really fell in love with the practice of paddling a canoe. To me, it is still the best perspective from which to see and understand the world. This is really the root of my project, and most of my love for the water was shaped by my time growing up in Maine. 

How has your time at Wellesley shaped your proposal? Your professors? Career Education?

My time at Wellesley has immensely shaped my proposal. The Geosciences Department has been an incredible community for me over the past 4 years. All the students and faculty in the department are such an inspiration for me, and I’m so proud of the community that we have created. In particular, doing oceanography research with my thesis advisor Hilary Palevsky has been a wonderful experience, and has inspired me to pursue a career in oceanography. Kate Dailinger and Liz Mandeville in the fellowships office have been such exceptional resources, and helped me shape my proposal into what it is today. 

What inspired you to take the leap and apply? Or, what would you say to encourage your peers to apply?

I ruminated on applying for quite a long time. I started thinking about the opportunity in June 2018 and it wasn’t until August that I began to actually write my personal statement. I took a long time to think about Watson and make sure that this was something I was really interested in and had the time to invest into developing a project. I talked to Carol Hundal, a current Watson fellow, and she advised me to begin thinking about Watson in my free time, even when I had 5 minutes to spare, and as I thought more about it, my project came together. But I gave myself lots of time to think, which was crucial. This strategy really worked for me and I would pass on the same advice to my peers who are considering applying. It’s really fun to dream about what you would do for an entire year with the whole world at your doorstep! 

What most excites you about this opportunity?

I am so excited to see how my project will change throughout the year. Right now, I have a certain idea of how things will be and how communities will interact with the ocean, but I’m excited for Watson to challenge my assumptions. When writing my project proposal, I did as much research as I could, but reading about how island communities use small boats will be SO different than actually living in those communities and boating alongside them. Ultimately, I’m excited to see how my beliefs will change, and how my project will evolve when my presumptions are questioned.