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Youth in Action: Thea Seitz

Students Rebuild Team

2018 Thea Seitz

Students Rebuild is excited to highlight the work of Thea Seitz, a senior at Friday Harbor High School. Thea was the recipient of the 2018 Friday Harbor Labs Young Investigator Prize, and is an impressive and commited ocean advocate.

The Young Investigator Prize is awarded by the UW Friday Harbor Labs K-12 Science Outreach Program. Friday Harbor Labs, founded in 1904, is part of the University of Washington’s College of the Environment.

Here’s Thea’s story…

I have always been deeply entwined with the ocean because I grew up on San Juan Island, located between Washington State and Vancouver Island, surrounded by the sea. From identifying sea creatures with my school classes, to tide pool exploration and personal beach days, our oceans have played a large part in my life. In recent years I have really started to notice the changes. Walks on the beach have included dried up sea stars hit by starfish wasting disease as well as shores littered with dead birds who lost their food source because of warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. But birds aren’t the only ones who have lost their food source, our beloved orca populations are also dwindling due to lack of food. Just last summer a mother orca grieved her short-lived calf by carrying her on her back for close to two weeks. I know these are not changes I can accept.

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My desire to incite change to improve our ocean environment and my interest in biology stimulated my application for the Young Investigator Prize at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories (FHL) in 2018, which included an eight week paid internship at FHL. During my time as the Young Investigator, I got to do hands-on research with a team in the FHL Director Billie Swalla’s lab, using tools such as light, compound, UV microscopes as well as micropipettes and a spectrophotometer, to grow and test methods for constant and reproducible sand dollar larvae cloning. Outside of my direct experiments, I was also was able to attend seminars for undergraduate students on topics such as resume building and watch undergraduates present their research at the end of the summer. One of the most valuable aspects of this experience was simply being surrounded by a community of scientific thinkers which could be clearly observed through “Tuesday Journal Discussions.” Every Tuesday a group of scientists from the Labs would meet and talk about a scientific article, assigned the week before, and discuss what this research could mean or areas that could use further inquiry. To me, this sense of discovery and love for learning is the epitome of science.

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Experiences like these, especially for youth, are an integral part of creating awareness and critical thinking about global issues so it is imperative that we support organizations that aid in such youth advocacy. I invite you to join me in taking the Students Rebuild 2019 Ocean Challenge, where by registering and sending in artwork you can help fund and support youth-oriented restoration and conservation efforts for our oceans. By participating, you will not only be helping save our oceans, you will be aiding in the education and empowerment of future generations. I am so pleased to hear that FHL is working with our Friday Harbor schools to join the Ocean Challenge and am grateful that we have a premier UW research laboratory on our beautiful island to study and eventually mitigate ocean changes. It’s been an honor to be part of this research collaboration.