NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Sy Montgomery speaks at NECC

Sy Montgomery, the author of The Soul of an Octopus, naturalist and author of “The Good Pig,” spoke at the STEM Speaker’s Series at NECC on April 6. Montgomery based her lecture on her book, and her incredible experiences working with octopuses at the New England Aquarium.

She began her talk by referring to the octopuses not as a “something,” but as a “someone,” giving the impression of octopuses being capable of complexity and personality similar to humans.

“I would like to start by telling you about someone who I met in March of 2011,” Montgomery began. “This is somebody who changed my life, who opened the world to me, and would change my thinking.

“Her name was Athena, and if she stood up she would have only been about 4 ft tall, and she only weighed 40 pounds, and she had a beak like a parrot and venom like a snake.

“She had ink like an old-fashioned pen, and she could change color and shape and pour her baggy boneless body through an opening the size of an orange.

“Because Athena was a Giant Pacific Octopus.”

From there, she went into great detail about how octopuses can shape-shift, change color and develop their own distinct personalities. She described many of her experiences at the New England Aquarium, including her very first interactions with Athena, and other octopuses and how different they were from one another.

She explained how they behave in the wild, and how they are kept entertained with puzzles and children’s toys in captivity. She also explained the biological components of the octopuses, and how it offers an explanation for how diverse of a creature they are.”They gave me a gift beyond measure.

“I understand what it means to think, and to feel, and to know,” said Montgomery. She spoke with passion and wonder spread across her face as she flipped power-point slides, exuberantly speaking about her plethora of rich experiences while working with these incredible animals. After the talk, she had a book signing for “Soul of an Octopus,” which is currently the most popular book on Amazon for marine biology. She took the liberty of personalizing her signings, and answering questions about her book and her work.

Many audience members stayed after the presentation to have their book signed by the author, including NECC professor Mike Cross

Sy Montgomery’s new book “Soul of an Octopus”