Selected as a 2012-13 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Yiyuan Jasmine Qin '12 will spend next year traveling to four continents to study river communities. Qin was one of 40 seniors graduating from college this year chosen to receive a $25,000 grant for a year of independent study and travel outside the United States.
Qin’s study project is titled “In Search of a Shared Future: Where the River Fairies Were.” It will take her to Switzerland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Peru, Brazil, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Australia, as she studies the Rhine, the Amazon, the Mekong, and the Murray-Darling rivers.
Growing up in Chezhou, Hunan province, China, Qin had limited access to the natural environment. She recalls her parents taking her to a park outside the city when she was very young and loving the experience. When she returned there as a high school student, she found the area despoiled by rare earth mining operations. In high school she launched an environmental campaign and invited World Wildlife Fund officials to a symposium she organized.
At Colby Qin is an environmental studies major and has worked all four years as a research assistant to Philip Nyhus on a project to reintroduce South China tigers into the wild. She is currently finishing a senior honors thesis. During a junior-year semester abroad she studied urban communities’ relationships to rivers, and she was encouraged by projects like one in Brazil, where parks were built to retain water and control flooding.
Her Watson journey will allow her to explore interactions between communities and their rivers through four river species: Atlantic salmon in the Rhine, pink dolphins in the Amazon, giant catfish in the Mekong, and Murray cod in the Murray-Darling.
The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of International Business Machines Corp., and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson.
On the Watson Foundation site:
• Abstract of Watson projects, including Qin's
• Yiyuan Qin's short bio