Blakely’s persuading beauty

During the spring of Leah Loffsgard’s freshman year at Seattle Pacific University, she enrolled in her first ever biology class. This was a new challenge for the first year college student who before beginning university had never really taken an interest in any type of science.

Rather, Loftsgard was more interested in people than plants and animals.

This stemmed from her upbringing in the mission fields of Nicaragua, Central America, where Loftsgard was always surrounded by an abundance of people, especially children. It was during this period that her love to teach grew and the desire to one day major in elementary education was formed.

Loftsgard was looking forward to one day being able to help children thrive in her classroom and to share her energetic love for life with her students

As part of her first biology class, Bio 2571, the curriculum required every student to spend a weekend at a field station on Blakely Island in order to conduct research and view the natural ecosystems first-hand.

 

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Leah Loftsgard marking student work books in the lab

Unknowingly, that weekend trip to a small, meager island in the San Juans, would change the course of her college career.

Blakely Island’s incredible natural beauty, diversity and peacefulness blew Loftsgard away. In the stillness she began to observe things that people often overlook or take for granted in everyday life.

“I love how the island shows off God’s creation,” she said. “As we studied and put names to organisms, it deepened my love and care for them! I know it sounds cheesy but I truly love all the chitons, lichen, ctenophores, bryophytes, and so many more.”

After her eye-opening experience at Blakely, Loftsgard felt the urge to change her degree concentration. She decided to still remain in integrated education studies but now her concentration focused on natural science.

This change meant that she had another opportunity to visit Blakely Island again the following year, a dream come true in Loftsgard’s eyes.

“On that second trip, both my knowledge and love of nature deepened even more,” she said.

Whether it was intently watching the vibrant and flourishing ecosystems alongside the dock at the marina or hunting for exotic fungi during a hike, Loftgard’s burning passion for biology was ever-growing.

Wanting to learn more and partake in more science, at the end of her sophomore year, Loftsgard decided to switch her major once again to pursue a biology degree with a secondary education endorsement, combining her love for teaching and science into one.

“A personality test once told me that I appreciate excellence and beauty, which in many ways is what Biology is to me,” she said.

If it were not for Blakely Island and its rich beauty, Loftsgard may have never been able to fully discover her deep love of biology and all of its scientific intricacies.

Apart from its physical splendor, the peacefulness of Blakely and its isolation have been very recharging for Loftgard. The slower more relaxed feeling of the island is an escape from the reality of everyday life.

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Loftsgard doing some research in her down time on the island

I love sitting down at the lake in the peace and quiet,” she said. “But I think what I love the most is the way the island brings people together. It has always been such a joy to see new sides of people as we learn and do learn life together on the island.”

Blakely, its beauty and biology will always hold a special place in Loftgard’s heart.

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