Marine Biology in Denver and (Hopefully) Belize

Since I was little, I’ve liked the ocean and the animals that live in it. Because of this, I’ve always had an interest in marine biology. However, as my career, I (thought) I wanted to be a lawyer. A couple of weeks ago, I interned at a law firm for three days and it wasn’t for me. So back to biology: Besides going to the beach and visiting aquariums, I’ve never done much about my interest in marine biology. Once I saw that Sea World Orlando’s marine biology camp was more than $1000/week, I gave up looking for places to further my biology knowledge.

Marine Biologist for a Day program, Denver Downtown Aquarium, Colorado

While planning our 10 day stay in Colorado, I stumbled upon this program geared specifically towards high school students. I signed up for the Marine Biologist for a Day program at the Downtown Aquarium. It lasts from 9am to 2pm and costs only $55. I was surprised by how much the program included for the price.

Here is the schedule of the day:
• meet and greet (there were about 6 others attending the program)
• food prep: combining a mix of different fish for the stingrays’ diets. At this point, we learned about sanitation and foreign substances.
• stingray pool time: pet and feed the stingrays. Here we learned about different ways fish are fed and why they are fed in certain ways.
• private tour of the aquarium: (the aquarium opens at 10, so we had a whole hour to ourselves) We saw a variety of fish (though no dolphins or penguins) birds, a tiger, turtles, and even a flash flood simulator. As we walked through the aquarium, we completed a short worksheet on tools used by aquarists and marine biologists.
• career investigation: look through real job listings related to marine biology and present them to our ‘classmates’
• lunch (included): At lunch we all got to know each other a little better
• main event: (behind the scenes) feed the sea turtles and watch a mermaid dive show about conservation
• quarantine: a staff-only part of the aquarium where baby/rescued animals live until they are more fit to be with other animals. Here, the aquarium breeds seahorses and jelly fish.
• engineering discussion: learn about the engineering behind the aquarium, (interesting stuff, I must say). I learned about foam filtration, negative ion filtration, and the nitrogen cycle.
• squid dissection: we got to dissect a squid. It was awesome. Our instructor and her comprehensive presentation on squids and invertebrates taught us how to dissect it step by step. We removed the eyes, the beak (I didn’t know squids had a beak), the stomach, the esophagus and the ink sac. We also determined if each squid a male or female. Then, we wrote our names with the squid’s ink.
• while waiting for our rides home, my classmates and I got to spray water in the classroom frogs’ habitat

If you have a teenager somewhat interested in marine biology or ocean conservation, definitely consider this program.

Marine Biology in Belize (Hopefully)

After realizing that I don’t want to be a lawyer and participating in Denver’s Marine Biologist for a Day program, I started thinking more and more about marine biology. My brother and I are in the process of building an underwater remotely operated vehicle so we can attach a camera to it and use it for ocean exploration. I also found a website called 70 Degrees West, which has inspired me to research how to reduce the level of trash that enters the ocean at my local beaches.

For years, I have wanted to go on a National Geographic Student Expedition for one of their community service trips or their photography lessons in Costa Rica. But they were just too much money (not expensive for what’s included, but I didn’t have $5,600 handy). Instead, I would bookmark the brochures I got in the mail and later forget about them. I still get the brochure of yearly expeditions in the mail.

This time, though, National Geographic added a new expedition. Brand new this summer is their expedition of 12 days in Belize. The focus area? Oceans and Underwater Exploration.

My jaw dropped wide open when I saw the pictures and soon after read the itinerary. The Belize expedition includes snorkeling in the world’s second largest barrier reef, working alongside marine biologists to survey marine species, exploring the world-famous Blue Hole, learning underwater photography, collecting data and monitoring coral reef health, working alongside researchers during a sea turtle census, participating in ongoing initiatives to protect dolphins and turtles, examining threats to coral reefs, and designing a project to raise awareness of marine conservation. It even includes a community service project (my other passion).

Now for the nitty-gritty details:
• The trip costs $5,390 not including airfare. But, since I’m so motivated this time, my dad has agreed to cover the
rest of the funds if I raise $2000. I got my first job (hostess) several weeks ago and I am working every Sunday. I make good money, but I need to work more days, even if those extra days have to be for a second employer.
• I still need to pay off gas money I owe my brother. I’m getting there, though.
• With that being said, I need to start fundraising (any ideas?). Some of my current plans include buying a domain through WordPress and setting up WordAds to a few bucks on the side. This won’t be enough, but it’s a start. I’m also asking for money for my upcoming birthday and Christmas. Other than that, I need to think of something. $2000 is a lot of money for a high school student to raise in one year. It wouldn’t be so hard if I were raising money for local homeless teens, but for this, I’m nervous. At least I’m determined.
• Why I want to go on this trip so badly: I want to see if the field of biology is a field I could see myself working in for a living, I want to further my knowledge of marine conservation so I can come back to improve Florida’s beaches, I think it could be a life changing experience, I can write about it in my college acceptance essay, and a community service day is included in the trip. I also think going on the trip would be a good way for me to gain independence: I’ll be flying to a country I’ve never been to and I’ll spend 2 weeks with people I don’t know very well (at all).

Overall, despite the money issue, I think this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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