from city heights to the white house

This may be a little long, but is a post I have been meaning to write for a while...

Over a decade ago, I started a collaboration with Ocean Discovery Institute (née "Aquatic Adventures"), with no real understanding of how it would transform my science and my life (as well as many others' lives). 

I had been working in Bahía de los Angeles for a few years, helping Drs. Gary Huxel and Paco Piñero to continue the work (and the legacy) of Dr. Gary Polis. But this was the first summer students from Hoover High School worked alongside scientists as part of the BAHIA program, an effort to empower underrepresented minority students through authentic science. 

One of the high school students who worked with me that first year was Anai Novoa. Petite even for a 9th grader, she was an enthusiastic and tireless field assistant. That's her on the far left in the picture below, pretending to attack me with a stick. Besides her love for arthropods, what stood out in Anai was her determination...she was a wrestler at Hoover High, wrestling against the boys. She was indefatigable when it came to climbing the islands and digging pitfall traps in 110° heat. And she always had questions - a seemingly limitless supply of questions about ecology, marine science, and natural history.


Anai ended up going to UCSB for her undergraduate degree, again showing her determination by overcoming a number of challenges along the way. Afterwards, Theresa and I were lucky enough to have her as our graduate student, where she just defended her (very interesting) thesis last week, where she compared historical datasets on wetland bivalves in southern and Baja California to her own present-day sampling (spoiler alert: fewer natives and more invasives!). 

So, in summary - Anai has gone from a resilient kid in City Heights to someone looking at PhD programs (along the way representing Ocean Discovery Institute at the White House for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring award). We could not be prouder!