Flowing with Fish in Panama

Science major tracks influence of currents in marine biology course

When the ocean currents are swift, the fish go low. That was the scientific conclusion of Aaron Cadotte ’18, who traveled to Panama to study marine ecology, specifically, how fish adapt to water flows of different strengths.

Cadotte, a physics and math major from Wheaton, Illinois, won a U.S. State Department-sponsored Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad. He enrolled in a six-week program, “Panama: Comparative Marine Ecology and Blue Carbon Conversation,” through the School for International Training that involved coursework, independent research, writing a paper and presenting the research results.

To observe the fish, Cadotte’s cohort traveled to three islands off the Pacific coast of Panama. He swam about 100 meters off each island’s coast and took hundreds of photographs. “The higher the current, the more the fish swan to the bottom of the sea floor,” he said. “It was easier for them to sit and eat there.”

Cadotte visited the famous Panama Canal, which has only recently been widened to allow huge containerships to pass from one great ocean to the other. One of his biggest takeaways: exposure to a completely different way of life, including widespread urban and rural poverty. “I knew I’d come back with an appreciation of how good we have it,” he said. “I appreciate how good we have it.”

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