When I was young all I wanted to be was an archeologist, to discover ancient relics hiding beneath the dust and earth. In school, history classes focused on ancient history; I learned about the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans—and I absolutely loved it.
I remember grabbing all the children’s books that talk about ancient gods, famous rulers, and wonderful ruins. I remember being fascinated by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Sphinx, and the Library of Alexandria. To this day, I still love reading ancient myth and legends and learning new things from history, however, instead of going into the field of history I decided to pursue science.
In second grade, I had the fortunate opportunity to go traveling in the Caribbean with my parents. I can’t tell you all the places we went or all the things we did, but there are two memories that have persisted. The first was a dolphin program.
I don’t remember much about the event, other than standing with a bunch of strangers in a large enclosed saltwater area. There were a few dolphins swimming around us and their trainers were speaking to us. It wasn’t a show but an interactive educational program. I don’t remember much about it other than it was a cloudy day, the water was warm, and the dolphins liked coming up to me. What I do remember, is that was when I first started to think that dolphins were cool and I wanted to learn more.
The second memory that I have of that trip is one that I hold dear. I can’t remember where this was, my mother always reminds me of the name but it never really sticks. The day was sunny, the beaches were blinding and clean, and the water was so blue and clear that I could see forever. I think we spent the day at a national marine preserve, but I’m not completely certain. I remember that this was the day things really started to change for me, though.
My parents decided that it would be fun to go snorkeling off shore, and you didn’t have to get far before there was a drop off and an outcropping of life. Since I wasn’t yet a good swimmer, my dad volunteered to babysit me while my mother went exploring. He thought it would be easy to keep track of me. To this day, he jokes about the hardest babysitting job yet, because if he looked away from me for two seconds, I was gone—off looking at something new. That’s what this experience was, it was something new, something completely alien and out of this world. I remember how fascinated I was by all the fish, all the colors, and all the life.
Everywhere I looked there was something different, something I’d never seen before. I learned quickly how to dive with a snorkel to get a better look at things further down. I followed whole schools of fish to watch what they were doing. There was so much to see that my little 8-year-old mind had a hard time keeping up, and so did my dad. That day changed my career path forever; I decided to focus on the ocean instead of finding dusty relics.
There were a few trips after that point that really helped to shape my focus. The more I dove into the water, eventually getting my dive certification, the more I wanted to study corals and their reefs. I went from wanting to study dolphins and other marine mammals to coral and their conservation. While I’m not quite there yet, I’ve decided to take the time to share my love, knowledge, and enthusiasm for the ocean with anyone who will read. And maybe I can awaken at least one person and help them on their path to the ocean too.