My Circle of Life
by Laura Stone, Membership Coordinator
Sometimes I think I was born an environmentalist. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t passionate for the water. My mom called me her water baby, which is surprising since I grew up in Scottsdale, AZ. As a kid, I remember being obsessed with the Discovery Channel. I had to be close to the water, so every summer I went to marine biology camps. I also went to see all of the blue planet movies at the theaters over the popular box hits. I never really got into cartoons like the other kids. So what’s wrong with being fascinated with nature as a young kid? In my mind, it was like a beautiful mystery that I was eager to unravel.
It wasn’t surprising that I chose Environmental Studies as my major at Dickinson College. As I got older, I started to realize that humans have a substantial impact on the environment - sometimes good and sometimes bad. It became my challenge to understand how we can both enjoy and protect our natural resources so our grandchildren and great grandchildren can enjoy it the same way we did. As an outdoor educator in the Florida Keys and in Nantucket over the summers in college, I realized that being an environmentalist didn’t just mean you love fish or you love trees; it meant you love people. I discovered how much I love teaching people about nature and how great it is to ignite passion for the environment in other people.
During my junior year in college, I spent three months studying abroad in Turks and Caicos (tough life I know…) and it was there that I saw how we are all connected to nature. The island was largely a fishing community, and locals heavily relied on the natural resources for their livelihood. I will never forget what a local fisherman once said said to me:
“Being out on the water and catching fish is a way of life, the only way of life I want to live. It’s the one my grandfather lived and the one my grandson will live. Of course I am an environmentalist.”
It made me understand that we are all on the same page - fishermen, environmentalists, schoolteachers, industrial workers, businessmen, beach goers, conservationists, kids - we are all connected to nature in some way, whether or not we realize it.
Naturally, I found myself drawn to the Gulf Coast after college. With its beautiful Bay and its diverse sea life--how could I not? I started working at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in the Fisheries Ecology lab. I was able to learn so much about the ecosystem here, from identifying species to understanding their habitat, feeding habits, and interactions. I loved it so much I decided to go back to school and pursue a Master’s Degree in Marine Science at the University of South Alabama. I wanted to understand fish ecology to provide information to better manage the fisheries.
In my free time, I found myself fishing, kayaking, or looking for any other excuse to get out on the water. I will never forget my first time catching some of my favorite fish in the area: Red Fish, Scamp, Amberjack, and last but certainly not least a Blue Marlin! It may surprise some that I love to catch and eat fish and still call myself an environmentalist, but it’s because I enjoy the resource that I also love to protect.
My life path turned full circle when I discovered Mobile Baykeeper, and I knew I had to get involved. Our mission is to protect and preserve the Mobile Bay Watershed, Alabama’s waterways, and coastal communities. I am so excited to be a part of this team, and my ambition is to be an environmentalist for this special place I’ve fallen in love with.