Planting seeds, finding roots

Meredith Becher ’23 followed her passion for biology and charted a new course on the Connecticut River from a canoe.

Growing up in a conservative, small town in Ohio, Meredith Becher ’23 was looking for a change of scenery. So when her uncle suggested she should apply to Mount Holyoke, she decided to take his advice and visit the College.

“Everyone was so friendly, and the campus was the perfect size for me,” she said.

“The fact that I was able to go to school outside of Ohio was pretty good too” Becher spent her freshman year exploring potential majors, including Spanish and politics. In her sophomore year, she declared a double major in environmental studies and sociology. But that was just the beginning. While environmental studies was not her final major, it led her to her true calling.

“I took an intro to biology course that was required for the environmental studies major, and I ended up really enjoying it,” she said.

“Mount Holyoke gave me the opportunity to learn what I wanted to be in the STEM field. I feel I got lucky taking that biology class.”

After that class and Becher’s internship at the Connecticut Audubon Society, she decided to switch majors and focus on biology. Department chair Martha Hoopes helped her switch her major, assisting with developing an academic roadmap and even helping her get into a class offered at the University of Massachusetts Amherst through the Five College Consortium so that she would be able to graduate on time.

Becher also began working in Hoopes’ lab using geographic information system mapping software to identify plants that had been sighted in Massachusetts. Her enjoyment of her work in the lab helped her know that switching her major was the right decision.

After her junior year, Becher again worked for the Connecticut Audubon Society through a LYNK-funded internship.

Each morning she and a coworker would take their canoe on the Connecticut River to sample aquatic vegetation at each of the sample sites they visited.

“I wanted to do field work, and I thought it’d be cool being out on the river every day in a canoe,” she said.

When she was not on the water sampling vegetation, Becher helped with a camp that the Connecticut Audubon Society holds every summer. She watched over the campers and set up the educational activities that they participated in. Through her sampling work, Becher was able to create maps integrating the data collected in 2022 as well as the data collected in previous years, dating as far back as 1994. For this work, Becher spent hours painstakingly entering and formatting the GIS data for software analysis.

Becher is still deciding on her path after graduation. One thing she is confident about: It will involve continuing in science, and she credits her time at Mount Holyoke with developing her love for the subject.

“I had never used a microscope until I got to college. My high school didn’t have very good STEM classes, and when I left high school, I didn’t like science,” she said. “Mount Holyoke gave me the opportunity to learn what I wanted to be in the STEM field. I feel I got lucky taking that biology class.”

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