Antarctica doesn’t seem like it would be of any interest to someone who was born in Cuba and went to college in southern California but for biology professor Isidro Bosch, the world’s coldest continent has become one of his biggest passions in life. Now in his 27th year at Geneseo, Bosch hopes to instill his love for the ocean and Antarctica through the courses he teaches, both on campus and abroad.
Bosch received his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara, the best school in the California system for marine biology. With the beach right outside, Bosch took up scuba diving, having always been fascinated with the ocean and water in general; something he credits to being born in Cuba surrounded by water for most of his life.
After receiving his degree in aquatic biology, Bosch received a year-long position in a research lab at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Maryland. “It was a meca for oceanography and marine biology. I was in heaven,” he said.
After completing his stint on the East Coast, Bosch headed back to California to get his masters at the University of California at Santa Cruz. After other potential research opportunities fell through, Bosch’s mentor approached him with the chance to conduct his graduate research in Antarctica.
This research project required Bosch to stay in Antarctica for over a year.
“I knew that Antarctica was a very challenging place to live,” Bosch said. “Very few people live there, it’s very isolated. But I thought about it and I thought that was a chance for me to really grow personally as well as a great opportunity for science. So I said yes.”
In August of 1984, Bosch set out for his inaugural trip to Antarctica. He remembers the moment the plane doors opened after they landed and the cold air—fifty degrees below zero—hitting him in the face. Bosch soon discovered how magnificent of a place the continent could be, both for science and for scuba diving, where you could see 200 feet into the water because it was so cool.
Bosch spent 16 months in Antarctica, experiencing three months of darkness while he was there. After returning back home, he became really interested in Antarctic research and would return seven other times over the next 14 years on different expeditions to different parts of the continent.
Once Bosch started at Geneseo in the early 1990s, he was also able to translate his love for the ocean to smaller bodies of water like lakes, which Geneseo is surrounded by. Bosch uses Consesus Lake to conduct a series of projects with his classes as well as other local lakes where students are able to meet with local residents to find out their needs, conduct research and present their findings back to the residents.
Bosch’s heart is still with the ocean, however. “Every chance I get, I go. I feel like I need salt in my skin and to get underwater. I feel the need to dive,” he said.
It was last year that an opportunity to return to Antarctica came to Bosch, in the form of a study abroad course through SUNY Brockport. Bosch already has plans to return with students both this year and next.
It was on last year’s trip to Antarctica that Bosch and his students were able to witness something that for so long had never been witnessed by anyone on Earth. A ship that the class was on rode through a megapod of whales, with over 300 whales appearing in 10 minutes. Bosch describes the feeling of seeing the megapod as surreal; as something no one on the ship had ever seen before, including members of the ship’s crew who had traveled the seas for years.
“I remember my own excitement, taking pictures and the wonder that no matter how much time you spend out on the ocean, there’s always something new,” he said. “It shows you how big and beautiful nature is.”
While Bosch is almost certain he’ll never see something like the megapod again, he knows that every time he goes back to Antarctica, he and his students will find new things. He enjoys seeing the enthusiasm students have for the research they’re doing and the places they’re experiencing.
“My passion is to share this beautiful world of water with my students. I like to take them to these places and teach them what I know but also see these places through their eyes.”
And it’s the Geneseo students, along with the faculty, that have kept Bosch here for so long. According to Bosch, it’s the quality of the students and the dedication of the faculty that he doesn’t think you can find anywhere else.