Professors Beyond the Classroom: Dr. Nadine Rorem

Discover how one Wheaton College biology professor takes her expertise from classrooms of undergraduates on campus to schools of fish beneath the sea.

Words: Cassidy Keenan ’21
Photos: Josh and Alexa Adams

Wheaton College IL Nadine Rorem Professor of Biology

Dr. Nadine Rorem displays some of her scuba diving gear.

Many couples have their hobby—some enjoy attending music concerts, some explore new restaurants or coffee shops every week, some like to camp and hike among picturesque hills and valleys. For Professor of Biology Dr. Nadine Rorem and her husband, their passion is a little more niche: scuba diving.

When Dr. Rorem was in college, she began her full and lengthy career in marine biology, falling in love with the ocean as she perused the works of Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic. This initial interest blossomed when she became certified in scuba diving, undergoing a rigorous training regimen at the University of New Hampshire. After enduring many practice sessions in swimming pools with the lights turned off or with foil put in her mask to simulate diving in blackout conditions, Dr. Rorem was ready to explore the ocean’s depths. Throughout her master’s and doctoral studies, Dr. Rorem performed extensive fieldwork off the frigid coasts of New Hampshire and Maine, studying and photographing the diverse undersea wildlife she found there. She had a particular affinity for studying cephalopods, especially squid. Dr. Rorem has also enjoyed trips for pleasure or photography in more temperate oceans like the Caribbean.

“My husband and I just came back from Bonaire in April, and we’ve already booked our trip next spring break,” Dr. Rorem said. “We like to go yearly, or every other year, for fun.”

Dr. Rorem and her husband’s annual trips to the diving island north of Venezuela have resulted in many positive and unexpected benefits, from enjoying couples’ vacations there with their friends from Madison, to Dr. Rorem’s husband publishing several murder mystery novels whose setting takes after the island.

Dr. Rorem has also shared her love for diving with her students. She taught marine biology at Wheaton for several years and often took students on trips to an island of Belize for fieldwork. She has also created a panoply of underwater photography from her many diving trips, capturing the beautiful, unexpected, and occasionally unsettling complexity of the underwater ecosystem, from graphic displays of predator and prey to the astonishing beauty of bioluminescence at night.

“My favorite part of it is just sensing God’s presence in the beauty of his creation underwater,” said Dr. Rorem. “And you always see something new every time. So I feel like it’s an invitation from God to behold his creation. And I love that. I love seeing his thumbprint and the beauty of all those creatures.”

Dr. Rorem’s enthusiasm for nature is not limited to the ocean. She is an avid gardener, teaching students to tend to the campus garden every year. She loves walks in the woods, she loves throwing pottery and other forms of art, and she and her husband are very active, biking and doing other outdoor activities together. Through it all, her ability and perspective to see God in all things, but especially in his creation, are truly unmatched.