When a living room airing of Blue Planet turns into a discussion about different phyla that harvest zooxanthellae, when a trip to the beach necessitates profiling sticks not beach towels, when the boat’s cooler is filled with algae not drinks—there’s no escaping it; marine science is engrained in you. My passion for the environment was first sparked when, at the age of six, I moved to my current home on the Barnegat Bay, a gleaming estuary of the Jersey Shore. Inspired by daily drop ins by great blue herons, frequent trips to local and state parks, and yearly escapades to explore the coast of Maine, I set out to learn as much as I could about the world around me.
I went to high school at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, an environment which cultivated my scientific brain, honed my skills in data collection and analysis, and opened endless doors to the future. I had the opportunity to take part in several research initiatives throughout my tenure there. Learning happened everywhere- studies aimed to evaluate the heavy metal pollutants entering a nearby lake, conducting a thorough report on the lives of the horseshoe crabs, constructing a freshwater fishing lure designed with the target species ecology in mind, and researching the viability of overwintering aquacultured eastern oysters in trenches below the thermal line in the grounds near the school, and monitoring their growth throughout the following summer. However one of the most important elements of my high school was that it led me to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB). My regional competition Shore Bowl, as it’s known in New Jersey, is fiercely competitive, requiring important teamwork skills like leadership, communication, and problem solving but also demanding self motivation, self control and self confidence.
NOSB fueled my passion for learning and soon I was delving into other competitions in the marine sciences. After completing my first NOSB regional competition, and taking third place, I joined an exciting new competition, the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center and the Marine Technology Society (MTS) Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) International Competition. As a junior the following year, with one competition under our belt, our team’s ROV, Aquafox, and its accompanying poster, technical report and group presentation took first place in the international competition.
The opportunities and inspiration flowing from NOSB didn’t stop there. That June, days after returning home from the win at the ROV competition at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, I packed my bags and headed to the Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP). I was chosen as one of six NOSB participants in the nation to participate in the Coastal and Ocean Science Training Internship (COAST) Program, a program offered through a partnership with NOSB and the Student Conservation Association (SCA). We studied parameters of the park’s 35 miles of coast line such as intertidal zone turbidity, salinity, and water temperature while also taking sand and water samples back to the RNSP lab. While wandering through tide pools spackled with giant sea stars and hiking amidst majestic redwoods I realized that I could do this the rest of my life. (It also didn’t hurt that my mom found she could cope with the possibility of me going to college out of state!)
As if NOSB hadn’t done enough for me, it also introduced me to the college I would attend. Hood College’s Coastal Studies program sponsored my regional competition and it ultimately became a large factor in my college decision. At Hood College, I am an Environmental Science and Policy major with a concentration in biology, and minor in coastal studies and journalism. Fall 2008 I completed the Coastal Studies semester which allowed me to link knowledge gained with field research and technology all over the Chesapeake Bay. We traveled to marine science field stations in the watershed and studied fouling rates of planktonic organisms, the shifting faces of the islands in Virginia, and the onset of Dermo in eastern oysters among other things. A small team of fellow students and I also conducted research on the invasive rusty crayfish in the Monocacy River watershed. The object of the study was to evaluate the potential these organisms have to invade the Chesapeake Bay in terms of their salinity tolerance. Interestingly enough, throughout the trial most crayfish survived the study period in the saline water. Currently more research is being done with this species.
I continued my work with NOSB into college when, in my sophomore year, I had the pleasure of interning at the NOSB headquarters at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington D.C. I volunteered at the Chesapeake Bay Bowl as well as the Finals Competition in D.C. However throughout my time at the Consortium I also worked on a student spreadsheet with the participants’ information, helped train volunteers, as well as some question writing and editing as needed. Yet, one of my most important and most rewarding tasks was to establish a program at the finals to connect student participants with experts in marine science, and leaders in marine policy, lobbying, and education, who were in attendance. I was thrilled to help make the Finals Competition even more exciting and gratifying for the students. The time I spent in D.C. did not come without the experience of working in the bustling setting of Washington D.C. and the thrill of operating behind the scenes at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum at the 2009 Finals Competition.
Currently I am working with a research company, ICF Macro, on the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics program. As part of the New Jersey team, I conduct the Access-Point Angler Intercept Survey. This entails surveying anglers while on offshore and near shore recreational fishing trips, on the beaches, local piers, charter docks, and private marinas. This exciting venture takes me all over New Jersey in order to talk to anglers and collect information on the fish they landed, such as length and weight. I distinctly recall learning the local saltwater fish for a NOSB practice challenge question and that has paid off unbelievably.
I am unendingly grateful for the positive impact NOSB has had on my scientific career and personal character. In the future I hope to use the skills and experiences I have gained to create a positive impact on student’s lives through environmental awareness. How I will go about accomplishing that has yet to be determined!