Sleds and supplies in the arctic.

Monica’s Bio

  • Major: Geology
  • Hometown: Buffalo, New York

To Monica Ridgeway, 10 days on a remote island sounded like an ideal way to spend part of summer break.

The fact that the island was Baffin Island located in the Canadian Arctic took only a little bit of the shine off a dynamic research experience.

“At first, I was like ‘Oh my God, what did I just agree to? I’m going to the Arctic and I am not Arctic material,” Monica said. “But it was a good experience. I’m glad I went.”

“Sure, UB’s a big place. But if you’re engaged in your department, it becomes a small home. No matter who you are, there’s something here for you. There’s some type of network for everyone. You just have to find yours.”

A trip to the Arctic and the subsequent analysis of the data collected represented a surprising chapter in Monica’s academic career. A transfer to UB from Erie Community College, where she studied mental health for two years, she switched to geology soon after linking up with the Buffalo Geosciences Program, a program run by the geology department to increase minority participation in the geosciences.

“I got involved with them by doing volunteering and outreach in the community and I found that geology was really what I wanted to do,” she said.

As a hopeful McNair Scholar, Monica was looking to take on a research project and approached geology professor Jason Briner, whom she met through the Buffalo Geosciences Program. It so happened that Briner was in the process of writing a grant to bring undergrads to the Arctic through the National Science Foundation.

Monica with a fellow researcher in the Canadian Arctic.

Preparing for research on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.

“He said ‘Well, I do have something you can do in the lab—it’s just not in the lab yet. We have to go get he cores in order for you to work on them in the lab.’ I said, ‘OK, I’ll go get the cores.’”

The trip involved taking sediment samples from lakes near Baffin Island which could be analyzed to determine climate changes over time. The data could then be used to gauge future climate changes by studying climate changes of the past.

“I learned a lot. Actually I learned more when I got back,” Monica said. “Getting the cores was the easy part. I think the best part for me was getting them back here and opening them and analyzing them. Then it made sense. That’s what this was all for.”

Last updated: March 13, 2014 11:09 am EST