Being a Thoreau Scholar has pushed me to reflect on how I can benefit the environment in every research project I engage in. Becoming a part of the Thoreau network, meeting so many students and alumni with the same passion for the environment, has been a great source of encouragement to become a champion of the environment and to protect the world we live in.
High schoolBarnstable High School, Barnstable, MA, 2010
As a girl growing up on Cape Cod, Katrina Malakhoff loved getting dirty, mucking about in tidepools and saltmarshes, and wading through the estuarine shallows of Cape Cod Bay. Today, having graduated from Harvard, she has returned to her beloved Cape as a researcher with the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, studying the diversity of infaunal invertebrates living in the sediment under Pleasant Bay and Nauset Marsh. “It’s incredibly fascinating just how many invertebrates can live in a tiny sample of mud,” says Katrina, “all of them beautiful and complex in their own way.”
Over the years that we have known Katrina, she has consistently demonstrated the wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, commitment to social justice, and affinity for hands-on stewardship that characterize all Thoreau Scholars. Here’s just a sampling: She has conducted marine research in New England, Iceland, Australia, and Panama. She has taught Chinese exchange students about coral ecology research in the U.S. Virgin Islands, served as co-director of Harvard’s Chinatown Afterschool Program and the Harvard Environmental Action Committee, and as a teacher and counselor for the U.S.-China Science and Technology Education Promotion Association. She has studied wound healing and recovery in a temperate coral species at the New England Aquarium, and completed a fellowship at the Wellfleet Bay National Wildlife Sanctuary, monitoring diamondback terrapins.
“It’s hard to look at something beautiful, like a beach at sunset or leaves changing in a forest, and know that we’ll destroy it unless we change our behavior,” Katrina says. “I was originally drawn to environmental activism out of a desire to preserve the natural beauty of my hometown. Since then I’ve become much more concerned about the impacts of environmental degradation on communities, especially when the communities that suffer the most are those with the least power. My deepest wish is for environmentalism to be recognized as a central issue, affecting everyone, everywhere.”
Katrina seeks to use her research as a foundation from which to advocate for marine conservation, and credits the Thoreau Foundation with helping her envision herself as a future environmental leader. “Being a Thoreau Scholar has pushed me to reflect on how I can benefit the environment in every research project I engage in. Becoming a part of the Thoreau network, meeting so many students and alumni with the same passion for the environment, has been a great source of encouragement to become a champion of the environment and to protect the world we live in.”
As with so many Thoreau Scholars, Katrina’s thoughts these days are pulled constantly toward climate change, in particular its impact on biodiversity. “I hope ultimately to become a marine ecologist and study the effects of climate change on coastal marine communities. Climate change is not a problem that can be 'solved' in this sense, but if we can find a way to predict changes in community structure due to inevitable climatic changes, we might help make communities more resilient to these changes.”