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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Katarina Rothhorn
Katarina Rothhorn
Features Writer

The first message I ever sent from my Northern Michigan University sanctioned email was to the editor-in-chief of the North Wind asking if there was any way I could join the staff. Classes hadn't even...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Actualizing aspirations


How an NMU science student went from the classroom to conducting research

About five years ago, senior environmental science major Myles Walimaa cracked into a fortune cookie that read, “organize your life around your dreams and watch them come true.” Around that time, Walimaa discovered a love for the outdoors and little by little, he began to organize his life around this new-found love. He traded his video games for backpacking supplies, learned more about outdoor safety, began rock climbing and looking into sustainability and
environmental practices.

“I started organizing my dream of wanting to be outside as much as possible and organized my career around that,” Walimaa said. “Five years of taking little tiny baby steps, then there it is.”

While watching the sunrise over the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas during the 2019 spring break camping trip wrapped in a blanket holding a cup of coffee, Walimaa got a phone call. It was the National Park Service (NPS) and they were looking to hire someone to do some bat research on Isle Royale National Park—a summer-tourist island located 56 miles away from the Michigan mainland and accessible by a 6-hour ferry ride from Houghton.

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“[The interviewer] knew I was in Arkansas camping and I feel like that alone, doing the interview in such a desolate setting also helped with the decision. Like, ‘oh, he can do the things he needs to do to make things happen,’” he said.

Shortly thereafter, Walimaa was offered the position and will spend this summer placing acoustic recorders all around the island to capture ultrasonic bat sounds to process into population numbers. A deadly syndrome, known as white-noise syndrome, has killed millions of bats around the world, putting the species in a risky spot. This problem began in 2006 in New York and spread to over half of the United States and five Canadian provinces by the summer of 2016, according to the NPS.

The invasive fungus grows on bat noses, causing them to act manically sporadic and eventually leads to death, Walimaa said, adding that this syndrome has been wiping out many bat communities east of the Rocky Mountains. In addition for his love for the outdoors, an associates degree from a community college in sound recording and studio production also attracted Walimaa to this position. His plans to be in the sound recording field changed after he realized the difficulties of the industry. Thus, impacting his decision to pursue a degree in environmental science at NMU.

“[Audio recording] went on the back burner and is just a hobby at this point. However, now I feel like I’m taking that audio background and applying it to everything I learned here at NMU,” Walimaa said. “It is essentially why I ended up applying for the position.”

Isle Royale is one of the most remote locations in the country, Walimaa said, adding, it’s essential to learn to be comfortable with solitude and stay positive in this desolate setting.

“Knowing how I operate in desolate settings, I know I’ll be perfectly fine,” Walimaa said. “Situations when it’s raining, I’ll think, ‘Oh it’s raining. It’s raining really hard and I’m a little cold. Oh well, I’ll just hike faster.’ Little things like that.”

Though Walimaa will be working 40 hours a week, there’s still copious amounts of free time Walimaa hopes to fill by reading all the books on his list, doing rock climbing first ascents and learning to be comfortable with being alone.

“I’m going to be by myself most of the time on the island and I’m looking forward to the solitude. I have little choice but to learn to be entirely comfortable and happy,” Walimma said. “It’ll be a growing experience.”

Professionally, Walimaa said his goals are to keep detailed notes, stay organized and connect with other researchers on the island.

“I hope to keep networking because there’s going to be a lot of researchers there,” Walimaa said. “I want to be a researcher, so I want to make some solid professional connections and hopefully those will lead to future jobs.”

Summer on an island in the middle of the country’s largest freshwater lake may be intimidating to some, but for Walimaa, past experiences with outdoor adventures and the desire to be an environmental researcher make it possible.

“If you have a dream or a goal it’s not going to happen tomorrow, you have to keep it in mind and use it as a motivation to do things right now,” he said. “Chip away a little bit every day and eventually you’ll have it.”

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