The California Sea Grant Fellowship has meant so much to me. This past year, I’ve been working with the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in beautiful Santa Barbara. The staff and partnering organizations have been so wonderful to work with and the flexibility of this fellowship has allowed for me to explore a multitude of career paths in National Marine Sanctuaries. This fellowship provided me with important connections for the future and I’ve made lifelong friends in the process.
There are so many memorable experiences I can tell you about: testing the new Spotter app which records whale sighting data; presenting at a marine mammal conference in New Zealand; working with enforcement partners to protect our resources; coordinating Sanctuary Advisory Council meetings; working with Channel Islands Naturalist Corps volunteers; making whale sighting maps to ensure whale safety in the shipping lanes… I can go on!
I’d like to reflect on one experience I had while attending career days for kids at local schools. I visited Goleta Valley Junior High School in October. These career days are organized by Partners in Education to bring professionals into schools to teach students about the variety of career options as well as what experience and education is needed to attain certain careers. Their motto is ‘Preparing students for what’s next.’
This career day was a fantastic chance for me to inspire students with stories. I highlighted careers at the sanctuary, my personal experience in the marine field, and my career path in the sciences. I went in with one goal—to inspire students about the ocean, marine life and conservation. I thought that if I could instill some values about the natural world, then my work here is done. I walked into the brightly lit classroom filled with boisterous, eager children and presented my talk. Amidst questions about ocean life, I also received questions about non-related things such as “what kind of car do you drive?” and “How much money do you make?” I left that day wondering if I had made a difference, but what happened next took me by surprise and wonderment. I received a collection of thank you notes from all the students that day and what they wrote reminded me of the importance of education, outreach, and how everyone can make a difference. These notes instill hope and promise for future generations in ocean protection. I feel proud to have been a part of career days and inspiring young minds.
Image, left - Andrea Dransfield at her going away party with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary staff. Photo credit: Mike Murray
I leave you with a few quotes from the thank you cards:
“I really liked the presentation you gave. I have always wanted to become a marine biologist and go in the ocean. I hope I can go through college and pass my tests to become what you have become.” – Jasmyn
“I think what you do is really interesting. I learned that people that like animals can go and help them. I liked how you and the people you work with help the environment to be a better place.” – Alex
“Thank you for giving such an awesome presentation. You made me really want to be a marine biologist! I like being under H2O and hope to be in your position someday!” – Connor
“I have always wanted to be a marine biologist and you have really inspired me with your causes. I love that you are so engaged and passionate about saving whales. I am very excited to learn more about marine biology and can’t wait till I’m old enough to volunteer at a sea center or may be even UCSB!” -Molly
“Your presentation made me realize that we share our waters and need to help keep the animals in them protected. And teaching us that college is important. I very much appreciate your efforts.” -Holly
“Thank you for volunteering your time to teach us about your career as a National Marine Sanctuary Biologist! I loved learning that whales are almost being endangered because of shipping boats. I will definitely consider marine biology as my major!” -Karina
“I like that you guys are trying to save the whales and how your hair is so pretty.” -Jouslyn