During President Darron Collins’ presentation, while he told a fantastic story about his work with Taimen on the Onon River, he didn’t hesitate to connect his research to his academic career. Collins sees the importance of the College of the Atlantic’s unique curriculum for students pursuing interest in the sciences or otherwise. Unlike most schools, programs of study are not confined by departments. Students learn by doing in a variety of fields that overlap.
Though his connection to the school is grounds for bias, given he is the president of the college, it is obvious his support for the college and the curriculum stretches far beyond his title. As a young man, he attended the college of the Atlantic and was startled by the school’s immense resources and opportunities given its size (just over 360 students). The college looks to fulfill students’ desires in any and all aspects of study. For example, a girl on campus, interested in all things compost and sustainable business, formed a company to profit from the school’s reusable waste. Collins was adamant, “nowhere else will you find initiatives like this or the support to accomplish them efficiently.”
The importance of this so called “curricular overlap” is ultimately preparation for future careers. A career is not defined by one’s ability in a single subject. More often than not, knowledge in multiple fields brings about the most successful transition into a sustainable job. In 2006, Collins traveled to Mongolia to examine why Taimen, a fish native to the Onon River, were depleting in population. Upon arrival to the river and surrounding community, Collins and his team were baffled. The ecosystem was nearly pristine and local villages did not use the Taimen as a food source. After further investigation, the team found the cause of the rapid population loss. Wealthy fisherman from all over, mainly Europe, were flying into Onon River communities by helicopter and catching the massive Taimen. To combat this phenomenon, the team utilized the principles of economics. Once a federal mandate was established against taking Taimen from their home, nearby communities encouraged fishermen to travel to Mongolia and fish in the river under a strict catch and release policy. The program has since brought wealth to the relatively poor river communities and, at present, growth to the Taimen population. As long as there is the desire to catch large fish in the region, booth the Taimen population and the surrounding community will continue to benefit.
The solution Collins and his team agreed upon was a combination of economic and biological incentives. Science alone was able to identify the problem, but not rectify it. The importance of collaboration, the fundamental principles of curricular overlap are both exemplified by this expedition. To preserve the world as we know it and identify possible solutions to future problems, it is of great benefit for us to diversify our knowledge and overlap fields of study as we, the next generation, begin the most pivotal aspect of our academic careers.