Editor's note: Brown is associate director of corporate and foundation relations and a research associate in biology. Prior to the Winter Olympics in February, she carried the Olympic torch in New Hampshire.
How exactly did you come to be a torch bearer?
We were sitting watching TV [last April] and there was an ad on the television and I turned to Herb [Wilson, Brown's husband and professor of biology] and I said, 'I don't often say this but I think that's something that would be fun to do.' And it said in the commercial, go to this Web site, a Chevy Web site. Herb toddled off quietly. The next day he said, 'Well, I nominated you.'
How many nominations were there?
Two hundred and ten thousand. Eleven thousand five hundred were selected.
How did you hear?
An Airborne package from Nebraska. I come home and here's this package waiting on my doorstep. We were ecstatic but we couldn't talk about it. They wanted secrecy.
Were there good souvenirs?
You could get hats, vests, pins, T-shirts. I didn't get that much of the paraphernalia. You could buy the torch, which I did do. I got suckered into it, and I'm glad I did.
What did you do with it?
Actually I bought a special holder for it so it can be displayed. I brought it in to work yesterday.
What was most impressive about the whole thing?
It's only two-tenths of a mile but for that two-tenths you're the only person carrying it. You're it for the world. I just felt it was an honor and it was fun, particularly now [with the Olympics in progress]. This country supposedly is at war and here's this much more unifying event of athletes coming together in a peaceful manner.
Your job at Colby is behind the scenes. What is it that you do?
Our office is charged with raising funds for Colby from corporations and foundations. We do that for government grants, too. Financial aid grants, grants for facilities improvement, curriculum development grants. Any sorts of things that affect student life.
What do you like about that?
I'm doing this because I really enjoy the process of writing grant proposals. It's a specialty field in many ways, both within philanthropy and in general. Because there is the idea of being able to match up the mission of the College and the mission of the foundations. That itself is a skill, but not only to match up needs at the College with the projects that are being funded, but then to write a compelling proposal following their guidelines. To win something after going through that is really, really, fun.
Speaking of fun, seen any good birds lately?
Well, on the way to work yesterday (Feb. 5) I saw a bluebird. We had three in our Christmas bird count, which was surprising. I think it's because it's been so warm. And yesterday on the way to work, one flew up from the side of the road to the wire.
Any other unusual birds this year?
Not here, but I had two wonderful ones when we were in South Carolina in January. I saw a rare mute swan on the ocean. The other thing I saw was a lesser black-backed gull, which was also not very common. We saw ninety-four species in a week.
Does it help doing your job to be trained in sciences?
Let me put it this way. I am frequently given the science proposals to do.
What is your science background anyway?
I started out as a biology major and got my master's and Ph.D. In marine biology.
What was your specialty?
Community and population dynamics of invertebrates that live in the bottom of the ocean.
You mean the bottom of the deepest oceans?
Sometimes. I've done some deep-sea sampling. I specialize in the taxonomy of a group of invertebrates, too.
Where was this?
University of Delaware. After I left Delaware I went to a company called Battelle Research Laboratories. They have ocean labs on both coasts. We had a lot of projects relating to offshore exploration for offshore oil and gas. We did the environmental component of it.
How big are these invertebrates?
The ones I work on range from anywhere from two or three millimeters up to centimeters.
Do they look like bugs?
Most of them look like little earthworms. There are a lot of crustaceans related to sand fleas. Things that crawl around the bottom. To sample them you drop a grab of known volume to the bottom and when it hits the bottom it shuts. You bring it back up and you sieve it. And then you have an army of pickers and sorters who pull out the organisms. And then the specialists like myself identify what's there.
Are you a different sort of person to go to the beach with, then?
Yeah, I don't tend to sit around and worry about what shade my tan is. I'm looking at what's crawling in the sediment.
Do you keep a hand in your field still?
I still get requests. Since I came here I had two or three publications on the bait-worm fishery. I did some work on the effect of the bait-worm digging on the other things that live in the sediments. The problem is it's very hard for me to do here. I don't want to commute to the coast. But our [Herb and my] research project now is the effect of automobiles on wildlife. We have transects that we walk. We measure them out, and by habitat. We walk those and report the things we find dead in the road. It's amazing.
What do you find?
It varies, but after a rainstorm you'll find up to forty frogs in a mile-long sector.
Why does that happen?
Because they come out in the wet and they hop out in the wet. But we probably should ask Cathy Bevier [biology]. That's her specialty. I can tell you the lowering of their population numbers may be not from pollution but from things like road kills. It's a very applied sort of question. I tend to ask those kinds of things.