Day three of summer in West Marin County and I wake to the sound of songbirds and sunlight peeking in through the window. A modern day Cinderella, I lay still for a second as I watch a deer graze less than 50 feet from the house. The bike ride to work is no less impressive as I follow a winding country road to the Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) headquarters. Located on Golden Gate National Recreational Area, the office is surrounded with the redwoods of Northern California and in fact, Lagunitas Creek behind the office, is home to Coho salmon smolt.

Originally from Eastern Washington, I moved to Los Angeles to study at the University of Southern California. Now a junior majoring in Environmental Studies and International Relations, I knew I wanted a summer experience engaged in both fields. Here at Sea Turtle Restoration Project, I found just that. Working under the guidance of biologists, outreach coordinators, and other experienced non-profit staff, I tackle local and international legislation enforcing laws to protect these creatures from countless threats like plastic bags or fisheries. Additionally, future work will focus on developing educational resources for local schools to implement into their curriculum. Recently STRP partnered with local middle school students providing me with the opportunity to teach them field work methodology in creating their own Marine Debris Action Team project. Because sea turtles and other wildlife mistake smaller particles for food or become entangled in larger pieces of litter, plastic debris is one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems. Long-term data collection could supply us with a better understanding of local ‘hotspots’ where greater amounts of debris are present. Such patterns could potentially help us focus our efforts to create the biggest impact possible. What’s more is that, any beach cleanups like this also help improve overall water quality for Pacific Leatherbacks that feed on jellyfish found off the West Coast.

While this summer has just begun, there is no doubt in my mind that it will continue to be a spectacular learning experience, putting my academic knowledge to work and strengthening my professional background. Surrounded by vivid greenery and hardworking people, my summer holds plenty of potential and I see it unfolding into a wonderful adventure.