Though she’s from the iconic town of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., Madeleine “Maddie” LaRue, a member of the College of the Holy Cross class of 2014, ventured far away from home this past summer, as she conducted scientific research in the Siberian Arctic. After successfully applying for a spot on the Polaris Project team, a collaborative organization that includes students, teachers, and scientists, she spent the month of July researching the Arctic landscape.
A biology major concentrating in environmental studies, LaRue originally thought she might want to become a veterinarian. But then, after taking a course with William Sobczak, associate professor biology and director of environmental studies, she became most interested in ecology, and she continued to pursue study in the field.
“Maddie has an advanced appreciation of how to apply her training in the sciences,” explains Sobczak. With this in mind, he urged her to apply for a position on the Polaris team. Taking his advice, LaRue applied and earned a position, marking her first time performing scientific fieldwork and her first experience with summer research.
In northeastern Siberia, LaRue resided near the town of Cherskiy, and was able to study microbial carbon cycling, which allows scientists to understand carbon degradation in nearby water supplies. While living on a barge on the Panteleikha River, LaRue worked and socialized with professionals in the field. “I was able to come up with my own research topic and 100 percent focus on that project and then get help from other researchers,” she says. “[We] became a family.” The team had only 25 members, and featured scientists who ranged from 20 to 65 years old.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” says LaRue, remembering the trip. “I got to study such an amazing ecosystem where not many people get to go, to see nature that’s unaffected by humans.”
Professor Sobczak echoes the importance of LaRue’s experience, saying, “The Siberian Arctic is an area that is rarely studied. Contemporary undergraduate education in the sciences rarely examines this portion of the planet, [so] it’s important to have education and outreach initiatives for the public.”
Understanding that the relationship between scientific research and public awareness is key, LaRue is a member of the Biology Society here on the Hill. Furthermore, as co-chair intern of Eco-Action, a group that promotes environmentalism at Holy Cross, she works to organize important events and activities.
LaRue hopes to continue her work as a scientist, as she plans to study abroad in Costa Rica in the spring. She looks forward to comparing the two ecosystems—the tropics and the tundra—and in the future, she hopes to attend graduate school in order to receive a Ph.D. in ecology.
Supported by the Woods Hole Research Center, which is located in Falmouth, Mass., the Polaris Project has also been funded by the National Science Foundation since 2008. Robert Max Holmes, the lead principal investigator for the project, will be speaking on campus Nov. 1.
For additional information, please contact Cristal Steuer at 508-793-2419.
TIME, MEMORY, IDENTITY: Concert and Panel DiscussionSee More > 09/25/2014
Tableaux Vivants of the Italian PresepeSee More > 10/25/2014
Craft Demonstrations by Refugee Artisans of WorcesterSee More > 12/11/2014
College Choir and Chamber Singers Advent Festival of Lessons & CarolsSee More >
‘Princeton Review Ranks Holy Cross Among Best Institutions for Undergraduate Education in the Country’
College ranks no. 9 nationally for most accessible professors
The College of the Holy Cross is one of the country’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review’s annual college guide, “The Best...07/30/14
‘Holy Cross Ranks No. 53 on Forbes’ List of America’s Top Colleges’
The College of the Holy Cross ranked no. 53 overall and no. 44 among private colleges on Forbes’ list of America’s Top Colleges. Forbes partnered with the Washington,...07/28/14
‘Fiske Guide’ Includes Holy Cross Among ‘Best and Most Interesting’ Colleges
Once again, the College of the Holy Cross has been included in the “Fiske Guide to Colleges.” Compiled by former New York Times education editor Edward B. Fiske, the 2015...