Seth Lapp, a fifth-year senior environmental science major from Lowville, New York, has a knack for relating his coursework in the present to his past experiences and hopes for the future.
Seth did a summer internship with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that enabled him to explore career options such as fisheries biologist and conservation officer. The internship sold him on outdoor work. A semester living and learning at a biological field station on the property of a nature center is one of the opportunities Goshen students can choose from, and to Seth, it sounded better than calculus and organic chemistry.
When Seth talks about Merry Lea’s Sustainability Leadership Semester (SLS), water stands out.
“In our Freshwater Resources class, we’ve been studying ground water and aquifers and how to preserve them. Only 3% of our world is fresh water, and a smaller percentage of that is available to drink. I am struck by just how finite a resource that is and how carefully we need to manage it.” Seth said.
“I am struck by just how finite a resource [water] is and how carefully we need to manage it.”
The semester’s weeklong canoe trip from the headwaters of the Elkhart River at Merry Lea to the beach at Lake Michigan was good experience for someone who is considering a future in fisheries. He expected to be canoeing through cornfields, but actually found much of the way well forested.
“I was amazed by how clear the water was and by all the wildlife along the river. We saw a lot of fish in the water.” Seth observed. “The river looked healthy compared to what I’ve been told and compared to the perception in the community.”
In the Community
Weekly field trips are a part of the SLS as well. Students learn from professionals such as the staff of a wastewater treatment plant and the director of a conservation area.
“One day, we followed a watershed coordinator for the Tippecanoe Watershed. He showed us places where he helped farmers develop cover crops to protect the water,” Seth recalled.
When Seth thinks about what role he might play in the group project the SLS students have embraced for their course on sustainability problem solving, his rural background comes into play. This year’s project is researching the possibility of a bike path in nearby Wolflake, Ind., and Seth wonders how that will affect local landowners.
“I’m really interested in property ownership because the path would go through farms. I’m from an area where we have more cows than people, and I’ve worked on my uncle’s family farm every summer,” Seth explains. Students will spend the last several weeks of the semester sorting out issues such as this one and preparing presentations on their research.
Not all of Seth’s interests can be fulfilled at Merry Lea: there is no baseball diamond nearby. Fortunately, he’s already had the chance to pitch for the Goshen College team for four years.