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How I Became Interested in the Environment

Mike Shea – How I Became Interested the Environment

Mike SheaMike SheaWhen I was a sophomore in high school I took an advanced placement class in environmental science. Aside from watching nature programs as a kid I didn't have any involvement in or interest in learning about nature. The only reason I took the class was because I thought it would look good on a college application. To my surprise, I found the material to be more engaging and interesting than my other classes because the concepts we discussed pertained to current environmental problems affecting the world.

During spring break I attended the class field trip to Baja California, where we did a research project for the Mexican government concerning the population of echinoderms within their oceans. As a part of our research we camped on the island of Espiritu Esanto for eight days, learning how to live more simplistically as to not disturb the native species there.

Approaching the island on the first day I could not help but notice the water surrounding the boat. It was so clear I could see fish swimming on the sandy ocean bottom. I have grown up in the Bay Area, taken trips to Hawaii and Lake Tahoe but I have never seen water that clean. Our research involved counting the number of echinoderms within a transect of 30ft on the ocean floor in various environments. We waded through rocky tide pools, along the tangled roots of mangrove forests, and dove down into brightly colored reefs.

A senior researcher explained to me that echinoderm populations were slowly dwindling due to over fishing, when I inquired as to the pristine conditions of the island he told me Espiritu Santo was protected as a biosphere. If it was not he feared development of the island would have polluted its waters, driven away sea life, and endangered the mangrove forests as had happened to many other regions in Mexico. At that moment I realized I wanted to defend natural areas so others would have a chance to experience and enjoy them as I have.

Mike Shea is an Environmental Education Associate in StopWaste's iRecycle@School program.