PacSci Perspectives

Exploring The Tides Of Environmental Health

by | Jun 29, 2016

Aimee Christy

Citizen scientists and Aimee Christy collecting water quality data and plankton as part of Olympia Stream Team and PSI’s “What’s Blooming in Budd?” program.

I’ve spent a large portion of my life with my feet in the sand or my head under water. I have always been drawn to the ocean – the smells, sounds, and feel of it; the amazing creatures that call it home. I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau films and poring over LIFE Nature Library series books such as The Sea and The Fishes. Low tide was never long enough to satisfy my curiosity as I poked around sea stacks and gazed into tide pools. After high school, I moved to Washington to study oceanography at the University of Washington. But it wasn’t until I attended the UW’s Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories that I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a marine biologist.

Today, I am a research scientist and environmental educator at Pacific Shellfish Institute located in Olympia at the southern end of the Puget Sound estuary. Our organization works to foster sustainable shellfish resources and a healthy marine environment through research and education. While I love designing experiments and analyzing scientific data, my true passion lies in environmental education. What a thrill it is to bring kids to the beach (or the beach into classrooms) and watch their excitement as a drop of water comes to life under a microscope!

Shellfish, as filter-feeders, require clean water to survive and to be healthy enough for animals, including us, to eat. They are the ‘canary in the coal mine’ when it comes to Puget Sound health. Over the past decade, I have studied an array of pressures that threaten water quality including storm water runoff, excess nutrients, fecal bacteria pollution, marine debris and ocean acidification. While these pressures may seem overwhelming, my challenge is to help others better understand these issues and become inspired to do something about them. Every day we impact the world around us. And every day we have an opportunity to do something positive for Puget Sound, whether through citizen science, art, technology, action projects, or personal behavior change. Take a moment to consider what the ocean means to you and what you can do to protect, love, and enjoy this magical place.

The Studio is an exhibit space located within Professor Wellbody’s Academy of Health & Wellness that showcases local scientists’ advances in current research through a combination of digital media, graphics, objects, and interactive displays and programs. Exhibits change twice a year. Join local researchers in the current exhibit, Healthy Water, Healthy You, to understand the process of getting drinking water to the tap safely. Discover the lifecycle of water and how rain runoffs can affect larger marine ecosystems.

The Studio is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institutes of Health and a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Studio is included with admission and FREE for Members.