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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Fremont, California, USA

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Fremont, California, USA
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Registered: December 2014
City/Town/Province: Fremont
Posts: 1
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In junior high, acute otitis media, where fluid builds up inside the ear, left me with partial conductive hearing loss for several months. It was incredibly difficult to socialize, because I often missed parts of conversations and had to ask people to repeat themselves several times. I gradually began to withdraw from my peers, only speaking when absolutely necessary since I was terrified of embarrassing myself. Both peers and teachers would joke about my quietness - I often was unaware of how softly I spoke.

The only place I felt at ease during this time was in the library, where I read everything from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre to Darwin's On the Origin of Species. I loved losing myself to the magic of words and the incredible vastness of the world behind each sentence. Armed with the knowledge from these books, I tried out for the Science Bowl team, guessing at the parts of questions I couldn’t hear during the spoken rounds. Despite my hearing loss, I ended up as the co-captain, and my teammates simply attributed my quietness to the fact that I was the only girl across all four teams. Their judgment of my capabilities angered me, yet I felt too shy to challenge them. I just poured all my efforts into studying and helped our team place second in the regional competition.

About a month after the competition, I received a bilateral myringotomy that restored my hearing. I remember walking to school the next day and feeling shocked that the traffic was so loud, and amazed that I could hear my teachers even from the back of the room. I never realized how much I had been missing, and became determined to inspire myself and others to find their own voices in the STEM fields.

The summer after freshman year, I attended a biodiversity class with the Smith College Science and Engineering Program. The professor invited me to shadow his work in Costa Rica after seeing my enthusiasm for environmental science. In Costa Rica, while I learned a lot from my mentor about the diversity of bees and damselflies, I was also horrified by the stark contrast between lush, protected areas, and the barren, deforested fields. One of my favorite places that we visited was the Children’s Eternal Rainforest (CER), an area of unparalleled biodiversity located in Costa Rica’s Monteverde region.

In 1987, a class of Swedish school children started fundraising to purchasing rainforest area, in order to protect it from destruction by deforestation. Since then, 44 nations have extended their help, and children and adults alike have pitched in to protect the 55,000 acre Children’s Eternal Rainforest. When I visited the CER, I was especially fascinated by the incredible diversity of moths. I found that most of these moths were not cataloged or extensively studied, even though they possessed the potential to inspire new inventions or more effective medicines. Besides the moths, I also encountered dauntingly orange Ichneumon Wasps and bright blue Tiger Beetles, but they represented just two out of the tens of thousands of insect species. The CER also contains over 3,000 plant species as well as 450 different bird species, which comprises 5% of the entire world’s avian species contained in an area measuring less than 100 square miles. The diverse symbiosis between organisms, as well as their environment, makes the loss of a single species potentially devastating to the entire ecosystem.

It was disheartening to learn that even though people have spent all this effort to protect the rainforest, poaching and deforestation still occurred in this beautiful area.

After I returned home, I was determined to raise awareness in my community of the threats to biodiversity, and to fundraise for the Rainforest. I wanted to combine my passion for teaching with environmentalism, but knew that I it would take all my courage to speak up for myself and the forest. After a few days of anxiety and hundreds of email drafts, I finally contacted my school’s Community Service Coordinator and the head of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest to get their approval for my plan. The next part, recruiting students to help me teach, proved to be even more difficult. I went around my school, talking to my friends, then their friends, and then even students I had never met. At first, I stumbled over words, fidgeted incessantly, and never made eye contact, but I learned to perfect one skill at a time. I soon found myself too engrossed in coordinating schedules, having fun with my peers, and celebrating our achievements to worry about being embarrassed. I ended up recruiting 11 others, and we held affordable and fun classes in biology, math, and chemistry for nearly 100 students from local elementary and junior high schools.

During these classes, we tried to emphasize the application of these fields in protecting our planet. I personally tried to encourage shy, soft-spoken students to participate more during class, and helped them develop confidence in their abilities and newly-learned knowledge.

Besides my personal achievement in helping others overcome their timidness, our efforts raised over $4000 for the purchase of rehabilitation and research materials for field scientists in Cost a Rica while spreading a sense of community and awareness for the environment. Together, my fellow teachers and I have dedicated ourselves to promoting a sustainable world by inspiring children and adults to take action in protecting the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, just like the class of Swedish schoolchildren did before us.

Through this environmental project, I have come a long way from my own silence, but continue to grow socially and academically. Using my experience, I want to become an even more inspiring figure to others in the hope that we can preserve the CER for generations to come. To me, being an Apprentice Ecologist not only means saving the environment, it was also a way for me to connect with a global community.
Date: December 31, 2014 Views: 5625 File size: 13.7kb, 1725.1kb : 1978 x 2048
Hours Volunteered: 152
Volunteers: 12
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 14 to 17
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