We are only just beginning to comprehend the magnitude of problems that we are causing to the ocean's fragile ecosystems. Sure, there are moments of despair. But you have to ask yourself, if you’re not going to search for a solution, who will?
High schoolThe Winsor School, Boston, MA, 2005
Graduate EducationPh.D., Biological Oceanography, MIT – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (joint program), 2014
The ocean is never far from Amalia Aruda’s thoughts. As a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), she spends her days helping to debrief legislators and develop policies for responsible stewardship of our ocean resources or, as she puts it, “connecting marine science with real world problems and solutions.”
Family summer vacations Cape Cod instilled in Amalia a deep love and awe for the beauty and complexity of marine ecosystems. “I’ve loved the Cape and the ocean ever since I was a child in pigtails,” she says. Back then, Amalia and her family enjoyed camping vacations at Nickerson State Park in Brewster. Even on a rainy days, there was no time to be bored, thanks to classes offered at the nearby Audubon Society. Eventually, the Arudas became summer residents of Wellfleet.
It was there that Amalia became deeply connected with the briny waters that produce Wellfleet’s world-famous oysters. For two summers, she worked for Wellfleet aquaculturist Andrew Cummings, a member of the Cape Cod Cultured Shellfish Group whose family oyster farmers use environmentally sustainable techniques. Learning the history of oyster cultivation in Wellfleet, including the near-disastrous effects of over-harvesting (Wellfleet’s oyster stock was nearly depleted by 1800 due to colonial-era over-harvesting), was an important early lesson in humanity’s obligation to protect and steward fragile marine ecosystems such as Wellfleet Bay.
At her first Thoreau Foundation annual reception, with matriculation at Georgetown University on the horizon, Amalia recalls how “someone pulled me aside and said, ‘Oh, you’re going to DC—you’ll definitely catch the policy bug.’ And they were right. At first, when I started at Georgetown, I was primarily interested in the sciences. But I had the opportunity to engage in a number of internships that focused on the intersection between science and policy, and it was a far more interesting and enriching experience than I had anticipated. At the same time, I was seeing more and more how science was being misrepresented in the public sphere and relegated to the sidelines of important issues. I knew that science had a lot to say in the context of these real world problems—and their potential solutions.”
Amalia’s identity as a Thoreau Scholar has been important touchstone along this path. “It was incredibly validating and encouraging to be connected with a group of like-minded people with a passion for the environment…to learn from them and be inspired by their stories. It reminds you what you really care about and helps keep that in focus as you move forward with your education and professional development.”
Speaking of the seemingly intractable political climate in Washington, Amalia says, “Sure, there are moments of despair, but you reach a certain point where you’ve had enough education and experiences where you see firsthand that solutions are in fact possible. And you have to ask yourself, if you’re not going to do it, who will?”
Read more about Amalia's work:
Amalia collects copepods at Salt Pond, Falmouth, Massachusetts.
Amalia sorts wild copepods in Trondheim, Norway.