by Denise Williams, ’92, ’95, ’08
When sixteen-year old AnneMarie Opipari led her high school team to a victory in the regional National Ocean Sciences Bowl, she had no idea how far her love of marine biology was going to take her in a few short months. Because of her leadership, she was selected to participate in the 2008 Coastal and Ocean Science Training (COAST) internship program sponsored by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL) and SCA.
The COAST internship is open to high school students interested in pursuing a career in marine science. AnneMarie became part of a six-student crew that lived in and worked at Redwood National Park. As part of the internship, AnneMarie (third from left in photo) got hands-on experience collecting scientific data, interacting with marine scientists, learning about coastal and ocean ecology and the threats facing park resources, and got a taste of what it’s like to work as a conservation scientist.
AnneMarie’s main responsibility was to collect data on seawater conditions at remote locations along the park’s coastline. She spent a month camping out in the park, hiking the rocky coastline, and exploring ancient, misty forests. She and her crew were given a great deal of autonomy in their work, giving them the chance to figure out on their own the best way to accomplish their goals and create their own experiences.
“The experience of conducting scientific research that will serve the park and community in the future was extremely fulfilling,” AnneMarie said toward the close of her service. “Coming from a small town in Michigan, this experience was something I could honestly only dream of, and it has had a profound impact on my life.”
AnneMarie says the experience was life-changing. “I’ve seen giant redwoods and turbulent waves, harbor seals and even gray whales. The complete awe that has overcome me at times has both furthered my education and passion for the environment. This internship has opened my eyes to what the world has to offer as well as what I can offer it. I will never forget the feeling of being so alive and so connected to the people and environment around me.”
For over 50 years, SCA has provided opportunities for high school students to work in our public lands, learning leave-no-trace ethics and a love for the land through their work in the wilderness. With so many threats facing the world’s oceans, the cooperative program between SCA and COL is an important step in raising awareness and developing stewardship for our oceans as well.
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