Text below is from Samantha Larson's blog
It’s been awhile—verging on four years—since my last post. I find that pretty hard to believe. I’ve been a student at Stanford University for the past four years, studying Earth Systems.
This post is spurred in part by a conversation I had with a friend, Brian, this morning about the distinct feeling of being in the mountains. It made me realize just how much I miss it.
I have a bit of a breather before finals week, so I asked Brian if he’d be interested in starting the day with a visit to Palo Alto’s Foot Hills Park. We rode our bikes there (quite a steep climb itself!) and then I ran the 7.5-mile Los Trancos trail—my new favorite run. It brings you up 985 feet through woodland into open chaparral, where you can look down at Stanford’s familiar sites like the dish and Hoover tower. It then shoots down, winding along the Los Trancos Creek, with 21 footbridge crossings. This is the best part, with its fast and free downhills, a few logs over the trail to jump over, and streams that cool me down when I dip my hands or hair. It’s probably the part that’s made the trail addictive enough that I’ve run it three times in the last month.
When I finished the run it was drizzling, so Brian and I grabbed our snacks and took some cover under a thick redwood grove. We’re both lucky enough to have dads who spent a lot of time with us in the mountains as we were growing up; we talked a little about our experiences in the mountains and how incredible it is to get up while the stars are still out, and the air is crisp, and you’ve got butterflies in your belly because you know you’ll have to give a lot of yourself to get to the summit.
So, what’s happened since my brief stint on top of the world? I’m now a senior at Stanford, with just one more quarter until graduation. Of course it’s daunting trying to figure out what I’ll do next, but I’m quite happy with my ‘Stanford experience’ and the adventures that it’s had to offer. I’m an Earth Systems major, which is an interdisciplinary environmental science program. I have an oceans focus, so in addition to the Earth Systems basics (math, physics, chemistry, geology, economics, biology), I have gotten to take cool classes like physical oceanography, marine biogeochemistry, and remote sensing of the oceans.
I’ve also had some amazing research experiences. After my freshman year, I worked in Prof. Rob Dunbar’s lab on a project looking at changes in the southern hemisphere westerly winds over the last 10,000 years. I got to spend the last three weeks working in the field in Torres del Paine, Patagonia. I felt my mouth watering looking at the amazing peaks the whole time—definitely a place I’d like to return to someday.
Spring quarter my sophomore year I did the Stanford@SEA program—five weeks at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey, and then five weeks aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, a 134-foot steel brigantine, as we sailed across the equatorial Pacific, from Tahiti to Hawaii. I did my project on changes in phytoplankton CO2 drawdown rates over our cruise track. I also came back a bald, tattooed sailor (I’m completely serious).
The summer after Stanford@SEA, I did Prof. Bill Durham’s Tambopata research program, in the Peruvian Amazon basin. I was there for about 8 weeks, doing a project with fellow student Ariel Marcy on the changes in soil health between primary rainforest, secondary rainforest, and on farms employing different agricultural methods. I pride myself on an ability to adapt to almost any external environment, but I feel like the rainforest pushed me on this like never before. I felt a little claustrophobic in the relentlessly dense trees, and sometimes like every creature in the forest was out to get me. But I think pushing myself that way was also good for me. I took home some incredible memories—of spider monkeys dancing through the trees, the particular smell of tapirs, and of the sloths that totally mess with your concept of time.
Last summer I started research for my honors thesis, in Prof. Kevin Arrigo’s lab on campus. It’s on how Antarctic phytoplankton adapt to different sea ice conditions. The summer was mostly lab-work, but I also got in a little adventure, as I took a sweet European climbing trip with my boyfriend, Matt. We went to Mallorca, Spain, Gimmelwald, Switzerland, and Chamonix, France. We mostly stuck to sport climbing, but also got to try out deep water soloing in Mallorca. It was really cool to focus on sport climbing for a little bit.
That’s quite the whirl-wind tour of the big adventures I’ve taken over the past four years. I would love to keep writing my current adventures and adventures to come . . . stay tuned!