My Mystic(al) Summer in Connecticut
Without Dartmouth's incredible resources and support network, I would not have discovered and landed my summer internship opportunity. Last fall, Dartmouth's Environmental Studies department administrator, Kim Wind, sent out a link to an info session for the Yale Conservation Scholars - Early Leadership Initiative. After an extensive application process, I was fortunately accepted into the summer program for undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds historically underrepresented in environmental institutions.
My summer started out with a paid-for, in-person opportunity to attend the New Horizons in Conservation conference at New Haven, CT, where I was able to meet my cohort members from around the country, attend workshops on applying to graduate school, and hear amazing panels from professionals from underrepresented backgrounds in the conservation field. It was amazing to see that the majority of attendees in the room were people of color.
Growing up, spending time near the water in the Philippines sparked my passion for ocean advocacy and marine science research. Based on my application, preferences, and interview, I was matched with Mystic Aquarium, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Connecticut along the Atlantic coast between Boston and New York City. As a kid, I could only dream of working at a site home to over 300 species of marine mammals, fish, invertebrates, birds, and reptiles. Now, I am so happy that I get to work in a place that provides top-notch, constant care to African penguins, beluga whales, California sea lions, sand tiger sharks, and more.
On a daily basis, I help manage summer camps and traveling programs, conduct citizen science field studies like horseshoe crab walks and bird surveys, and showcase the beauty of the world's marine creatures. My primary project is to mentor high schoolers interning at the aquarium through the New London Youth Affairs workforce development program. We are working on a project focused on sustainable landscaping and forestry, specifically climate adaptive planting and creating a pollinator garden. Leading this project has allowed me to transfer and build on the hands-on field research skills in botany I learned from ENVS 25: Agroecology last summer at Dartmouth's Organic Farm.
Through Wednesday intern seminars, I have the chance to connect weekly with other undergraduates working in the aquarium and hear from experienced full-time staff from animal rescue, fish and invertebrates, marine theater, and various departments. On Fridays, I attend the Yale School of the Environment's Friday professional development workshops through Zoom. My interdisciplinary social sciences coursework at Dartmouth in Economics, Public Policy, as well as Environmental Studies topics in classes like Energy Justice, Marine Policy, and Urban Political Ecology has prepared me with the knowledge to actively contribute to group discussions with my peers.
Mystic, Connecticut is a quaint historic town alive with tourists visiting from all over the country during the summer. There are beaches, seafood restaurants, and plenty of cute boutique shops to spend any weekend exploring. I was fortunate to find convenient housing where I rent a room from a lovely lady named Laura only two miles from work. Fun fact: Mystic, CT is where the famed 1988 Julia Roberts movie Mystic Pizza was filmed!
In addition to my job, working out at the local YMCA, and exploring the surrounding area, I have spent my summer assisting my Energy Justice Clinic research professors Sarah Kelly and Maron Greenleaf to finalize a co-authored academic article with our community partners. One long weekend, I drove two hours north to visit my friend and fellow blogger Dianna in Boston. We cooked tacos at her apartment, watched Disney's new movie Elemental in theaters, enjoyed delicious hot pot on a rainy day, and toured the New England Aquarium for the first time.
As an Environmental Studies major, working at Mystic Aquarium from Mondays to Thursdays and attending professional development Zooms on Fridays has been a dream come true—a rewarding learning experience and an exciting change of pace from taking classes. In just a couple of months, I will be spending my fall term in South Africa and Namibia on Dartmouth's Environmental Studies Foreign Study Program (FSP). It is the first time the Africa FSP is running in four years because of the pandemic, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to attend. More to come!