Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy

1). Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy taught students how to safely catch, tag, collect data, and release various species of sharks and rays. Then, utilizing that data to determine correlations between their research and whether conservation efforts are working for these species.

2). What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Through this program I was able to push myself outside my comfort zone and gain confidence in my abilities as an individual and as part of a team. I had the opportunity to travel across the country alone, meet new people and gain knowledge about marine species and conservation. Having the ability to work with this program allowed me to understand that I have a passion for exotic animals and want to pursue a career in veterinary medicine with a focus on exotics.

3). What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

One of most major aspect of this program that transformed me was traveling alone without the comfort of friends or family. When it was time for the departure day, I began getting anxious and overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts. I’ve never voluntarily put myself in those positions before, and challenging myself to do so was a huge transformative event. I learned that I do not need the safety or comfort of others to learn and grow as an individual. I can learn, teach and experience hundreds of different things by myself without relying on the comfort or validation of others.

I have always had a love for marine animals and having the opportunity to spend a week interacting and studying them was a dream come true. I learned the process of catching, tagging and collecting data for each species of shark and ray. Being thrown into these situations at the beginning of the week was overwhelming, but by the end of the first day we learned quickly. I found myself stepping into a leadership position by the end of the week with CMERA and helping others collect the data, while keeping these animals safe. I realize that I can by a leader amongst others, and help inspire them to push themselves outside their comfort zone.

Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy allowed me to understand myself and my abilities. I made some of the best people I’ve ever met. Furthered my passion for marine life and exotic animals. Learned I am a leader and can be confident in my abilities amongst a team and work together. And became more confident as an individual, who I am, and what my purpose is. Having the opportunity to work with CMERA and spend time with these new people was incredible, and I 100% plan to attend in the future as either a student or intern.

4). Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

Gaining this knowledge and confidence in myself is crucial for my personal, academic and career goals because I no longer question my worth regarding my abilities or knowledge. I am confident that I push myself until I succeed and complete my goals. I’ve been told that I am not good enough for veterinary medical school, and I need to make a backup plan. I know that if I work hard enough, I will attend veterinary medical school and become a veterinarian. I will make a difference for the research and conservation of endangered animal species. And I will inspire others to reach their goals and build their confidence.

Blacktip Shark Data Collection