Qin wins Watson
Yiyuan Qin ’12 will be graduating from Colby this spring, and will spend next year traveling around the world, as a result of winning a prestigious Watson Fellowship. Qin, an environmental studies major, will be traveling to four different river basins with her Watson grant, in order to study how people interact with river systems, via damming and diverting them, and the impact of human interaction with the river on the species of that area. Qin will do this by studying the keystone species on which the communities in these river areas rely.
With the Rhine River in France, Qin will be looking at the Atlantic salmon, to see how the communities on the Rhine were successful in bringing back these species. The Rhine River was so polluted that for a long time, it was considered the “open sore of Europe,” but they have now repopulated.
“We need to protect rivers in order to protect the future of these species, and as a result our future. We can look at the Rhine to see why it succeeded, and if it really did succeed, and use this to help other rivers,” Qin said.
The Amazon River, running through several countries in South America, is important to Qin because it is the second longest river in the world, and it is historically significant, in terms of exploitation; additionally, there is much to be learned from it, as there are communities who live on the river that have to deal with its different seasons and the changes that come with them.
The Mekong, the longest river in Southeast Asia, interests Qin because of its untamed nature, including a rate of 100 new species discovered every year, the threat of its exploitation at the hands of China and the cultural richness of the area from the many different minorities who live on the bank.
The Murray-Darling River in Australia was captivating to Qin because the river is carefully developed and managed, as it is in a dry area, so every drop of the river is previously planned and allocated before it is used.
The Watson Fellowship application process is complex, and includes a 1,500-word personal essay, a 1,500-word project proposal, a $25,000 budget proposal and references. This was especially difficult for Qin, as she is traveling to 12 different countries to visit the four rivers. According to Qin, the application was, “The hardest application I’ve ever done, but it was also the most rewarding....The Watson is extremely personal and forces you to look at yourself and why you want to do it, and how you see the world.”
Qin said that she really appreciated the help of her friends and different members of the faculty, as well as those experienced with the application process for the Watson, who supported her through the application process with recommendations, kind words and encouragement. East Asian Studies Professor Kim Besio was especially helpful to Qin. “[Besio] helped me to see my identity as Chinese and tie the story together with my Chinese ethnicity,” Qin said.
Qin is also especially grateful to Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Philip Nyhus, because he was helpful in guiding her toward establishing a policy background to complement her science background for the environmental studies major.
Qin will leave this summer for her travels, after a successful Colby career, and will use her fellowship to discover how human communities interact with their environment; her plan, as of now, is to eventually use this knowledge to become a city planner.