Monday, April 8, 2013

Rozalia Project Intern blog: We don’t like to live surrounded by piles of trash, so why would they?

Today's blog post is from the enthusiastic Tara Silber, Marine Biology major at Maine Maritime Academy. See how a film helped inspire her to take action for our oceans...

Growing up in a family of beach lovers, I suppose I may have been destined to become one myself.  Though I lived in New Hampshire, we always spent at least a couple of weeks at our family cottage in Old Orchard Beach, ME.  Now living in Saco, we are just a 5 minute drive from that same beach.
When I was a sophomore in high school, we took a family vacation to San Diego, CA and visited Sea World.  It was then that I decided I wanted to go to school for marine biology to become a dolphin trainer…so I thought.  This stuck with me until my senior year, after I had already applied and been accepted to Maine Maritime Academy, until the night my mom rented the documentary The Cove.  This documentary changed my views entirely, and I believe it guided me to my true purpose in the field.  It was that night that my love for the health of the ocean and the organisms living within it really took me over.

When I started college the following August, though I knew I wanted to help animals, I had no idea where to start; I was terrified not knowing where my career in the field would go.  As I progressed through school, it started to become much clearer.  Whether I was learning about it in class or friends and family were sending me links to pictures and websites, ocean pollution was everywhere.  I’m sure we have all seen the pictures of birds with their stomachs full of trash and sea turtles whose shells grow misshapen from a piece of debris being stuck around them. Seeing these animals wrapped in plastic and netting absolutely breaks my heart.  As I continued to see this through my years at MMA, I knew I needed to get involved.  

Sea turtles and marine mammals became a favorite of mine long ago.  I think they are among some of the most beautiful creatures out there, and marine mammals are extremely intelligent.  Conservation and rehabilitation of species such as these would absolutely be my dream job.  Ocean pollution poses one of the biggest threats on these species, as well as numerous others.  The key to conserving these species is conserving their environment.

In September 2012, I had my first, hands-on experience with marine debris.  My friend and I volunteered for a beach cleanup with the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI).  MERI is based out of Blue Hill, ME and for the cleanup we traveled to an island off the coast of Blue Hill.  On the boat ride to island, they educated volunteers about products, such as soaps and cleaners, that contain small beads in them that most people don’t realize are plastic.  Once we arrived at the beach, you didn’t have to look very hard to find debris.  There was trash tangled around bushes and trees, buried deep into the ground, and tucked up into snail shells; I was absolutely horrified.  We cataloged everything we found, most of which was plastic, rope, and lobster buoys.  All of the salvageable lobster buoys were left by the loading dock on the mainland for fishermen to claim in an effort to recycle them.  I believe in the end we had collected 8 industrial sized trash bags of debris, and this was from just a small portion of the island.  The cleanup was part of the Maine Coastal Program’s 2012 Coastweek Clean Up, and all of the data we collected was sent to the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Clean Up Program.  Overall, it was a very eye-opening experience.

When I heard about Rozalia Project, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity for me to get even further involved and continue on my path toward a full career doing what I love. I am extremely grateful for such a wonderful opportunity to not only continue doing my part in cleaning, but also to reach out to young minds to help them see how they can help, too.  Sea turtles don’t know the difference between seaweed and a green plastic bag, and fish don’t know the difference between plankton and a microscopic piece of plastic; it is our responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves from the pollution and trash we have created.  Removing trash from the ocean provides animals with a healthy, enjoyable place to live. We don’t like to live amongst piles of trash, so why would they?  

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