Carolyn Wellman, '13

Carolyn Wellman holding a small bird.

Hometown: Salamanca, NY
High School: Ellicottville Central School
Major: Environmental science with honors
Campus: Jamestown

Some people agonize over the decision of what to major in. They make an extensive mental catalog of the pros and cons to each field of study, compare median salaries and job satisfaction ratings, examine their own talents and interests, and, at long last, decide on a major, before going back and completely second-guessing themselves.

Carolyn Wellman is not one of those people.

“I didn’t have any second thoughts about anything. I knew exactly what I wanted to do.” She wanted to work outside, with nature. “I’ve always been most comfortable in the woods,” she said, making the natural sciences a perfect fit.

She decided to attend Jamestown Community College and entered the liberal arts & sciences: math & science program, focusing in biology. Although she’d applied to other colleges, she chose JCC because she’d already earned college credits through JCC while in high school. This would have allowed her to skip some introductory level courses at any college, but by this point she was already familiar with JCC and its program. And even though events were already going her way, it was only after she arrived on campus that things really started to fall into place.

Carolyn Wellman untangles a bird from a net.“When I came here, the new Science Center had just finished, so I was like, ‘Yay!’ For my first classes, we got all new classrooms, and in my second semester they started the environmental science major.” As soon as she heard the news, she switched majors and joined the fledgling program.

That’s not surprising. After all, when your mother works at Allegany State Park and runs the summer programs for kids, it’s hard not to fall in love with nature and the environment.

“I’ve basically grown up at Allegany [State Park],” said Carolyn. “Starting at around three or four, my sister and I would always go to our mom’s programs. We went enough over the years that we’d pick up different tidbits and be able to give a little tiny spiel to the people that would be gathered there.”

That was only the beginning, though. Carolyn’s been a part of the MAPS research program (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) since she was five-years-old. The multinational program tracks the populations and migratory patterns of landbirds in North America through a wide network of netting stations. At each netting station, birds are caught, banded, cataloged, and then released back into the wild by a huge group of scientists and volunteers.

This summer, not only did Carolyn continue her work with MAPS, she received college credit for it. The assistantship was one of the requirements for earning honors at JCC. The experience, Carolyn said, was incredible, and she’s loved the opportunity the honors program has given her to explore the environmental science field in greater depth.

“You’re pushing it to the next level,” Carolyn said. “You’ll be more prepared when you transfer, and it gives you more of a challenge. And I like a challenge.” And thanks to JCC, she knows she’ll be ready for the next one.

Carolyn Wellman teaching a group of kids about birds.

Favorite class: “Conservation Bio taught by Jan Bowman. It was my first semester here and that was the class that steered me towards a desire to go into conservation biology. It really made a huge impact on me. All the classes I’ve taken here have expanded my knowledge. Right now I’m taking a course called Planet Earth. It’s about critical issues that we have right now: global warming, the decrease in biodiversity all over the world, deforestation, pollution. It’s a multi-disciplinary course, you can take it as a biology credit, as a communication credit, or an anthropology credit. It’s taught by three teachers (Becky Nystrom, Deb Lanni, and Shannon Bessette), one from each of those fields. It all shows how everything is interconnected.”

Favorite moment: “I’ve just enjoyed everything at JCC. All my teachers have been great. Becky Nystrom and Jan Bowman are my favorite teachers, but I’ve loved every single teacher I’ve had a class with. It’s just been a really good overall experience here. In this area, there’s so much you can actually do. One girl that I have a class with is doing an internship at the Buffalo Zoo. Last semester, when I was doing my bird-banding research, both Jan and Becky were like, ‘Carolyn’s the expert on birds, if you have any questions go to her.’”

Advice for students considering this major: “Get involved as much as you can. Get your foot in the door. This semester we’re doing the Endangered Earth movie series again. If they care about the earth, join the Earth Awareness Club. If you’re interested in something, try it out. Go to a lecture, go to a movie showing. If you like it, follow that. Do an internship. Ask for help, ask older students for recommendations.”

Favorite spot on campus: “I love the hundred acres that we have out back. We would go out and do projects and research back there. There’s a lot of nice little trails and I would go out hiking with my friends.”

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