Growing up on the coast, Ellie, SP ’15, knew she loved the ocean long before going to The Island School. Her IS experience only cemented her future in ocean conservation and field research. This fall Ellie started her college career at Eckerd College in St. Petersberg, Florida. For her six-week January break she interned at Ocean Research & Conservation Association. ORCA is a nonprofit dedicated to developing technologies to conserve and restore ocean ecosystems impacted by anthropological activities.
With the determination to get back into the field, Ellie began her search by looking at all ocean-based nonprofits in Florida. When she saw Dr. Edie Widder was the founder and CEO of ORCA she realized the Island School connection. Although Ellie was on the Sting Ray Team at IS she had heard about Dr. Widder’s work from the Deep Sea Team’s deployment of the Medusa; the camera that captured the first images of the giant squid and Dr. Widder’s most famous discovery.
Ellie interned with the ORCA team on the Fast Assessment of Sediment Toxicity Program (FAST Program). The Fort Pierce area, where ORCA is based, has experienced extreme algae blooms in the last few years. Through the sampling and analysis of the Indian River Lagoon, ORCA has made “pollution visible.” Using a state of the art water sampling system called Kilroy, and the results from FAST, ORCA has created a user-friendly map of nitrogen levels within the Indian River Lagoon. With this knowledge and tool the community and stakeholders can be empowered to resolve the problem.
With this experience, Ellie is well on her way to a career in marine conservation. Working with Dr. Widder and a team of passionate and driven scientists Ellie, although young, was challenged to work independently and trusted as a member of the FAST team. When asked what impacted her the most from her internship with ORCA she said, “Dr. Widder has never lost her inspiration and passion for the ocean, and that inspires me.”