John Reinbott, '18
Have you ever loved something or someone so much that you needed a constant reminder of just how much? Well, I loved my experience in Morocco so much I had it permanently inked on my arm. That's the kind of passion a semester abroad in Morocco creates. As if that weren't enough, my new found love of travel helped me discover my career path.
Upon my return from Tangier, Morocco, I focused on continuing my studies in the marine sciences. Unsure of what path within that field I would take, but yearning for more travel experiences, I enrolled in a travel course that would take me to Belize to study coral reef ecology. Each semester Jeri Fox, associate professor of Marine Biology, offers a course that takes students to Belize to expose them to coral reefs.
After spending eight days snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef off the coast of Ambergris Caye in Belize, I knew I was destined to spend my life helping to conserve and protect these beautiful, fragile coral reefs and their surrounding ecosystems. In order to make this a reality, though, I needed more hands-on experience and that's just what I did.
There was no better way to combine a desire to travel and a need to gain more experience in a field I could spend a lifetime devoted to, than to intern in a foreign land. Before I could apply, I had to get my scuba certification. As with all things, when given the opportunity, I went full speed ahead and completed that certification and began working up to becoming a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certified rescue diver. With certification in hand, it was time to apply.
Both UNE travel experiences and my sense of adventure prepared me well to accept the offer to become a coral reef intern at a remote dive base within the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in Mexico with Global Visions International (GVI). I was incredibly excited to start the two-month journey as I grabbed my mosquito net and GoPro and boarded a plane for destinations little known.
As a coral reef intern, I took part in an in-depth science regiment to learn how to identify sixty coral species by their scientific names. This was achieved by exams conducted on the computer as well as in the field. I and a qualified science officer would dive and as they pointed at a type of coral I would write its name down on a dive slate. After many long days spent repeating these exams, I graduated to reef monitor.
Soon, I was headed out on our dive boats to a nearby monitoring site where I helped collect vital data (reef and species composition/abundance, coral predation and bleaching, the competition of other benthic organisms). The data collected was organized and sent off to other companies such as CONAP and Amigos de Sian Ka'an to help aid in assessing the overall health of surrounding reef ecosystems. Despite the lack of air conditioning, running water, and cell service the two months I spent working with GVI, to help conserve the surrounding section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, were the best two months of my life.
I returned to my hometown in New Jersey from my internship poised to finish my final year at UNE and land a position at a coral reef conservation organization anywhere in the world. I am grateful for the opportunities I was provided and unbeknownst to it, UNE serendipitously not only gave me a love of travel but a clear direction for where my professional life was headed.