Hello! I’m Mary, the new science communications intern at the Alaska SeaLife Center.

I often close my eyes and imagine the ocean….a far off place with one hundred different shades of blue, an open space as deep as 36,000 feet, an endless array of meaning filled with unknown creatures and discoveries to be made. I open my eyes and I’m back home in the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois just imagining the ocean and trying to control my strong desire to be there.

In May of 2019, after four long and challenging years, I graduated from Benedictine University with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry/molecular biology. I have had a passion for marine science since I was young and I knew I wanted to pursue marine science as a career since high school. During my time in college, I was able to take advantage of many opportunities that inspired my passion for marine science.

I was astonished by a small sea star during my trip to the Bahamas

The first experience that I jumped at was a course on and a trip to the Bahamas to learn about the environment there and some of the animals that I am so passionate about. Don’t get me wrong I had been to the ocean before this and had probably previously seen many of the species that I did on this trip, but there is something indescribable about knowing the name and purpose of what you are looking at.

During this trip I started to connect all the different aspects of the ocean together and realize how much I truly loved it. It felt like my life had been this immense, jumbled puzzle and I finally found a piece that fit in perfect. The next piece of the puzzle was participating in an iguana capture-mark-recapture study which connected the whole aspect of research to this metaphorical puzzle and helped me understand the significance of research.

After that eye-opening excursion there was no way I could go back to closing my eyes and just imagining the ocean so I found a small part of the ocean close to home. The Shedd Aquarium captured my enthusiasm for the ocean and I became an intern there in the summer of 2018. I never thought that learning about animals from all over the world and experiencing marine life in a way that I never had before could happen so close to home. Caring for these animals everyday provided me with a sense of dignity and pride: the next piece of the puzzle was in place.

Throughout all four years of college I was able to participate in research projects that helped satisfy my urge to always ask questions. I also spent my time on the soccer team and in the students for ecological and economic development club (SEEDS). No matter what research I did or club that I joined nothing quite fit in the puzzle like my experiences with the ocean did.

Enjoying my first full week at the Alaska SeaLife Center

I am here at the ASLC because I share a passion for marine science and the message of ocean conservation with everyone who works here. The research being done here at the ASLC is truly fascinating and I am thrilled to be a part of it. The ASLC is my perfect balance of marine animals and research in one place.

During my time here at ASLC I will be writing blogs and finding new and exciting ways to make sure that our visitors know about the groundbreaking research being done here…and I’m sure that I will find plenty of time to hang out with the animals too! I am so excited to learn more about Alaska’s ecosystem and marine life these next few months! Looks to me like the next piece of the puzzle fits just right!

Written by: Mary Keenan, ASLC Science Communication Intern 2020

Feature image credit: Alamy Stock Photo

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