Last weekend was pretty monumental for me, and I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the path that led to where I am, and the way forward. And smiling a lot (well, you know…for a curmudgeon like me, anyway).
This weekend I was putting away some old research notebooks, and noticed an entry I made in Bahía de los Ángeles in 2003, while there with Dave Sandstrom and some people from The Nature Conservancy doing some research. I noticed this entry:
“Sun Nov 16. Decamped in Cataviña, checked out the cave paintings, then drove to BdlA. Set up boats for quarterly sampling with Sammy. Road out to BdlA was very very green (as was the rest of the trip down). Bahia itself looks verdant. Shara Fisler is in camp with Travis, Melissa, and one other girl to check things out for the next summer.”
OK, first, excuse my “one other girl” comment. That was Lindsay, who is wonderful, and certainly a woman not a “girl”. I have become better about weird language use since then.
This was my first time in Bahía de los Ángeles with Ocean Discovery Institute (neé “Aquatic Adventures”). I had no idea at the time how much Shara, Travis, Melissa, Lindsay, and the program would become a part of my life.
Last summer was my 15th summer in Bahia with Ocean Discovery Institute. Students from the very first year are to this day friends (some more like family) and colleagues; my daughter calls Shara “Aunty Shara”, and has learned a lot about diversity, nature, and feeling grateful through our relationship. Ocean Discovery Institute and my family have gotten grants together, written papers together, and dreamed together. I recall one conversation in Bahia, maybe in 2007, sitting in the sweltering staff house working on schedules and proposals, where Shara turned to me and said “Wouldn’t it be amazing if one day we were an institute? And you had former Ocean Leaders who were your grad students working down here, and we had a facility in City Heights?”. Of course I agreed, but I also thought it was akin to wishing I would one day be a Nobel laureate - fun to dream about, but not very likely.
Clearly, I underestimated Shara and Ocean Discovery Institute.
As time went on, I became more involved, eventually becoming the Science Director for Ocean Discovery Institute. Ocean Leaders went on to college and careers in large numbers, the programs expanded to include the entire “school shed”, in City Heights, and several years ago Anai Novoa, an Ocean Leader, completed her Masters degree with Theresa and I, doing work *in bahia*.
Last weekend, I watched the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Ocean Discovery Institute’s new “Living Lab” in City Heights. The place was filled with supporters and well-wishers - political leaders, scientists, community members, donors, volunteers, and Ocean Leaders. Visions from last Sunday keep coming back to me…my daughter, not even born that first summer, was playing with the children of Ocean Leaders who themselves were children when I met them in 2004. Another Ocean Leader, Rudy Vargas, is now himself a political force in San Diego and beyond, while others are students in STEM, conservation scientists, and community leaders.
Let me be clear - I had only a tiny role in this incredible success. But I am super proud of being there and touching lives to the extent I have, and also very grateful for the ways Ocean Discovery Institute has impacted my life and my family.
I can’t wait to see what happens next!