BSc Biology, University of West Florida, USA
MSc Marine Biology, NOVA Southeastern University, USA
Bethany is a highly-motivated Biologist who passionately strives to encourage awareness for environmental conservation and promote efforts of sustainability. Her educational background and career opportunities thus far have continued to inspire her to be an agent of positive change; especially during these critically challenging times where we find ourselves amid mounting environmental concerns.
Bethany’s educational career began at the University of West Florida where she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology. After graduating she followed her respect and love for the oceans to NOVA Southeastern University where she earned a Master of Science in Marine Biology. During her time there she studied in the Ichthyology and Neurophysiology lab where she better developed scientific acumen and research skills. Additionally, her work in this lab provided the foundation for her thesis. Her thesis studied the effects of caffeine and its neuroprotective response of brain disorders of the Central Nervous System as well as its ability to enhance cognitive capabilities. The effects of chronic caffeine exposure were measured via the functional recovery of the dorsal light reflex in hemilabyrinthectomized common goldfish.
While in graduate school Bethany spent lots of time volunteering at Loggerhead Marine Life Center as a rehabilitation assistant. A place she used to visit as a young child where her fascination and deep-awe for the oceans first took root. Bethany has developed an extra special place in her heart for sea turtles. She is privileged in that she gets to live in Hawai’i and swim laps in the ocean almost every morning. Almost every morning she gets to swim with a sea turtle or two and it’s always a surreal experience.
As the finish line for graduate school came closer into view, Bethany spent time praying and trying to figure out what would come next; a PhD or apply for jobs? Where she ended up she could never have imagined but it was an experience that changed her life. The same month Bethany graduated from NOVA she was off to Zambia to serve in the Peace Corps for 2.5 years. She quickly adapted to living without running water or electricity. Her job title was Rural Aquaculture Promotion Agent and her main duties involved overseeing fish farming cooperatives, collaborating with the district Department of Fisheries, and educating farmers about pond construction, maintenance, stocking, and harvesting. Additionally, she taught about other environmental issues and helped to offer sustainable solutions including fuel efficient stoves, composting, and permagardening. However, her biggest and most rewarding accomplishment was writing a grant through USAID to acquire funds to help the local community school build a solar powered computer lab and library complete with over 2,000 library books and brand new laptops. Hopeful that she was equipping the community with knowledge that would help provide a more promising future.
Post-Peace Corps Bethany came back to the USA and started to adjust back to life in America. Her career path continued at the Oceanic Institute of Hawai’i Pacific University in Hawai’i. After living in a landlocked country for 2.5 years this opportunity was quite an exciting experience. At the Oceanic Institute Bethany worked as a research assistant in the shrimp department. The Peace Corps taught me a lot of lessons and opened a lot of new doors, one of them being that she really enjoyed working in aquaculture.
After some time at the Oceanic Institute Bethany decided it was time to move on and started a new job at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa. This job has afforded her many incredible opportunities. Her main roles include monitoring the health and behavior of ~1,000 Hawaiian saltwater fish and ~150 koi fish. She works to take care of the fish and maintain the health of the man-made reef in which they live. Additionally, she helps with guest programs including supplied air snorkeling and scuba diving. Bethany educates guests on the importance of ocean conservation. Furthermore, Bethany is working to set up an algae culture to produce live feeds for the purpose of breeding the cleaner shrimp, Lysmata amboinensis (de Man, 1888).
Over the last year Bethany became interested in learning more about the policy side of science. Through Disney she is afforded the generous opportunity to go back to school to earn another degree. After serving in the Peace Corps she has come to see education for the privilege that it is and how going to school is not something everyone has access to. She could not pass up the chance, and is currently enrolled at the University of Denver where she is working to earn a second Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Management.
Bethany is really excited to learn new skills from Dr. Sonia J. Rowley and help contribute to her extremely important research. Her current research activities are the morphometrics of the microscopic skeletal structures (sclerites) of specific species of gorgonian octocorals collected by Dr. Rowley at Mesophotic depths throughout the Indo-Pacific. Bethany is always striving to expand her abilities and knowledge base, so to be able to learn from Sonia will be a huge opportunity to help her grow in the field of science.
In the future she may want to work towards a Ph.D. She has also thought she’d like to work for NOAA. For now, she is enjoying life in Hawai’i and hopes that her work and actions can help promote progressive change today for a cleaner and healthier planet tomorrow.