By Tiffany Whitfield

Come May 6, 2023, Andrew Lindgren will temporarily trade his mud and boat gear out for a diploma in Ocean & Earth Sciences with a concentration in geology from Old Dominion University. His innate love for nature and passion to protect natural environments has fueled him to study vigorously so he can help the next generation have pristine environments.

“There’s a lot of ways that we are not treating the Earth well at all, and we’re starting to see some really awful consequences of that,” said Lindgren. “What has brought me here (to ODU) fundamentally, is a love for these natural environments that we’re uprooting and we’re destroying in all sorts of ways, and a desire to protect them and to save something beautiful for the next generation.” 

At first, science did not seem like the clear choice for Lindgren. Just after graduating from Centreville High School in Clifton, Virginia, he took a summer geology class at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). Originally, Lindgren planned to major in engineering at ODU. “I was generally impressed by ODU’s engineering department,” said Lindgren. “It seemed professional, competent and an up-and-coming program that was certainly more affordable than the other colleges I was considering.”

However, once he started engineering classes, something was missing. “I felt like the person I was when I entered college and the person I was when I started at ODU were pretty different,” said Lindgren. He remembered the way he felt when he took his first geology class at NOVA. “It really clicked with me, and that’s where I fell in love with geology.”

For Lindgren, being out in nature is a serene and awe-inspiring place to be. His love for science was rekindled after he switched majors. “I found nothing but great things here in this (OES) department,” said Lindgren. “The faculty are all very personable and knowledgeable, and it’s definitely been a much better fit for me.”

He has been fascinated by the material and the hands-on experiences. Lindgren has worked in the classroom and out in the field with OES Assistant Professor Joseph Tamborski, Ph.D. “We went to the Gulf of Mexico just off the western coast (of Florida) on the continental shelf,” said Lindgren. They made stops off the coast of Florida including St. Petersburg.

“The most exciting experience has been my work out on the West Florida Shelf dealing with groundwater discharge,” said Lindgren. This research trip lasted for two weeks and involved 17 scientists from ODU, Florida State University, University of South Florida, Oregon State University and the US Geological Survey. Additional science party members included personnel from University of Southern Mississippi and University of Southern California. As an undergraduate, Lindgren worked in-step with expert scientists.

“Andrew demonstrated great intellectual curiosity and critical thinking in his upper-division Geology coursework,” said Tamborski. “These skills have translated into successful field and laboratory research here at ODU. Andrew’s scientific future is bright.”

Lindgren has also had opportunities to work with Professor and Eminent Scholar David Burdige in his geochemistry lab. In Burdige’s lab, Lindgren has learned how to perform titrations for measuring alkalinity, and measure dissolve inorganic carbon. Through classes he’s gotten to see a few different labs and get his toes wet in a lot of different procedures.

Also, with Assistant Professor Tamborski, Lindgren has done work on the Virginia Eastern Shore looking at groundwater discharge in marsh estuary environments. “Even within classes themselves there’s been a lot of chances to get out, get knee deep in the mud, get out on a boat,” said Lindgren. “For hydrogeology we went out to First Landing State Park and learned how to sample wells.”

Lindgren, like all OES students, did research on ODU’s research vessel, the Fay Slover. “It’s always a very exciting time to be out on the water, and that’s what I’m here for at the end of the day.”

Outside of academics, and with his affinity to nature, he is very active in the Outdoor Adventure Program through ODU Recreation and Wellness. He and other outdoor adventure leaders get to take people out on camping trips, backpacking, canoeing, and even more adventures. “It ties into what I really love about this department. It really captures a lot of that same love for the outdoors and my love of those pristine natural environments, allowing me to experience them and protect them,” said Lindgren.

His favorite place to go is False Cape State Park about an hour drive south of Sandbridge. “I think that park is gorgeous, and it’s a very stark contrast to the very developed commercial areas of Virginia Beach,” said Lindgren. “There’s a sudden cutoff with miles upon miles of pristine beaches with really beautiful dunes, incredible vegetation that you can’t find in any other environments, lots of great birds.”

Some other places he really loved venturing to were anywhere out in the Appalachians or the Shenandoah region. “Caving is really the most exciting ones for sure,” said Lindgren. It’s not like Luray Caverns where you get a guide, and you just walk through, we’ve got a guide out in the West Virginia area and he is great. These are completely dark, completely natural caves, a little bit scary, I’m not going to lie, but particularly as somebody who’s job it is to study rocks and mud, [a] very exciting experience that you really can’t find anywhere else.”

After graduation, Lindgren will return to ODU to start on his master’s degree and continue research in Assistant Professor Tamborski’s lab. They will venture back out to the Gulf of Mexico later in the summer which will be part of this thesis work.  

His advice to anyone considering come to ODU is this: “explore both in majors and in extracurriculars and know that you’re probably not going to get it right on the first try. I certainly didn’t and that has not been the experience of a whole lot of my friends. You’re going to change as a person and coming out of high school there’s a lot of things you don’t get experience in until you arrive to college. It’s important to be flexible and to try a lot of different things before you lock yourself in and decide ‘well this is the type of person that I am, and this is the only future that is laid out for me.’ Explore and be flexible.”

For Lindgren, research and hands-on experiences have been his guiding light to help him learn all he can to protect nature for the long-haul.