Cornell’s Ithaca campus, consisting of 2,300 acres with more than 260 buildings, can certainly be described as massive. Yet another word that comes to mind is siloed. On any given day our concept of Cornell may be limited to only a few buildings on campus, depending on our major or school. For example, a student in the College of Engineering who lives in Collegetown may go days or even weeks without seeing the Arts or Ag quads. On the other hand, someone in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who lives on North Campus may rarely see the Engineering Quad.
As we prepare for the start of the semester, my sophomore brother is going to take BIOEE 1540: Introductory Oceanography taught by Professor Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric science. I took the course my sophomore year as well, right in the middle of the pandemic where the course was fully virtual. Ask any Cornellian who has taken the course and hundreds if not thousands of them, including myself, will tell you how amazing the content, professor and impact of the course is. Over a thousand students each semester take oceanography for a reason, and the course remains as spectacular now as it did when it started years ago.
Similarly, hundreds of students take ASTRO 1101: From New Worlds to Black Holes every semester; Bill Nye ‘73 even comes back every year to check in on the class. Similar to oceanography, this introductory astronomy course inspires students to do more than look up at the stars but understand what lies amongst them as well.
The North Atlantic right whale population — with fewer than 400 individuals — is at risk of further decline as rising sea levels force them northward toward fishing grounds where they run the risk of potentially deadly ship strikes and entanglement.
For the uninitiated, EAS 1540: Introduction to Oceanography is Prof. Bruce Monger’s, earth and atmospheric sciences, 1000-level introductory science course of over a thousand students, #8 on Cornell’s 161 and an easy A for the scientifically challenged trying to fulfill distribution requirements. No one takes Oceans as a senior because their career path took a turn for the nautical or because of a deep, latent love for the sea, especially not an ILRie who barely survived high school biology. So how did I find myself doing Oceans homework on a Friday night, crying about the environment? My first semester at Cornell, I joined the University Assembly, where I sat next to Prof. Robert Howarth, ecology and evolutionary biology. To freshman Sarah, this was nothing short of insane, because I had cited his research on methane in a high school debate case just a few months prior, and now we were discussing the implications of Cornell’s 2035 Climate Neutrality Plan.
Our greatest guides at Cornell should be the professors who stand before us each day. For us, one of these individuals is Prof. Bruce Monger, Earth and atmospheric sciences, whose well-known course EAS 1540: Introductory Oceanography draws over a thousand students each Fall. He has consistently anchored political activism in his pedagogy, even inspiring a former student to take a year off to work as a climate activist for The Sunrise Movement. We asked him about the path he forged and the advice he offers for students today. From logging trees in the Pacific Northwest to lecturing oceanography in Bailey Hall, Monger built his career out of a keen sense of adventure.
After taking BIOEE 1540: Introduction to Oceanography, Benjamin Finegan ’19 was inspired to take some time off from school to advocate for climate change policy. He was one of 50 individuals arrested for occupying the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Earlier this semester, I sat down with Professor Bruce Monger, Oceanography, who offered an environmental perspective on eating, his own philosophy on food and diet choices and advice on how to eat sustainably.
Think big and carve your own paths, urged Prof. Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric sciences, in his “last lecture.”
The last lecture series, hosted by Mortar Board, brings speakers to reflect on his or her life experiences and share thoughts with students, as if it was the speaker’s last lecture. In his lecture titled “My Slightly Unusual Life-Journey And Some Important Things I Have Learned Along the Way…,” Monger recounted how he grew up in the small town of Shelton, Washington, where the two main industries were saw mills and logging. Despite his deep love for science as a child, Monger said in high school he “just mindlessly sort of followed what [his] friends were doing,” taking carpentry and woodshop instead of science classes. After high school, he continued to follow his friends and went into the logging business, “because that’s what everyone else did.” However, during one solo motorcycle trip to Colorado during a summer vacation, he had an epiphany that changed the direction of his life. While checking into a motel, he realized, “That’s what adults do…I’m totally an adult. I’m in charge of everything now.
Cornucopia is a biweekly podcast that covers research stories unfolding across campus. Join hosts Addison Huneycutt ’18 and Ali Jenkins ’18 as they dig into the juiciest discoveries they can find. In each episode, you’ll meet a researcher, chat with Addison and Ali and hear some corny jokes. Check out the science section of The Cornell Daily Sun for biweekly updates about the latest episodes. Queries relating to Cornucopia may be sent to [email protected].