Ally Amavisca has been fascinated with marine science for most of her life.
Amavisca, who studied marine and coastal resources as a student at NC State, works now as a marine science educator. She leads two programs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California.
“I really liked teaching, so I moved to California and started doing education,” Amavisca says.
After graduating from NC State in 2004, Amavisca took a year off before starting law school at UNC. During that time she was also a marine science technician with the U.S. Coast Guard, where she primarily worked with oil spills. She worked for an environmental law firm, but soon decided that education was what she really wanted to do.
“I missed being outdoors,” Amavisca says. “I decided that maybe I didn’t want to do law.”
The Student Oceanography Club is more-science oriented and allows students to come in and do experiments, hear talks from local scientists, and create conservation projects of their own. The Teen Conservation Leadership program focuses on students learning marine science and leadership through volunteering. These high school students learn leadership skills through activities such as helping families in the touch pools at the aquarium and teaching children how to properly handle the animals.
“It gives me the opportunity to inspire them and teach them to care about the ocean and the environment,” Amavisca says.
Teaching through the programs at the aquarium are not the only ways Amavisca has gotten into education. She gives talks every year to different groups about the importance of oil spill science that she learned about during her time with the Coast Guard.
She also spent three years at the Phoenix Zoo as a programs coordinator and had an opportunity as a part of the Grosvner Teacher Fellow Program with National Geographic to travel to the Arctic Circle and give talks aboard the National Geographic Explorer to other guests.
“I was the only non-formal educator, and I was super privileged to get that experience,” Amavisca says.
The favorite part of her job at the aquarium is working with the kids from the Teen Conservation Leadership program to build confidence and leadership skills.
“It’s so awesome to see the kid at the beginning of the summer who is really shy and unsure of themselves,” Amavisca says. “And then two months later, you see them blossom and have interactions with a family of four and they’re teaching the little kids about the animals.”