A week in Phoenix, Arizona changed my life and made me realize my true passion. When I was a junior in high school, I was required to complete a science fair project for my honors biology course. I remember telling my teacher that I didn’t really like science fair projects but I was willing to work on a project if it involved water. Growing up I spent my summers on the Chesapeake Bay swimming, crabbing and getting stung by jellyfish, so I’ve always had a love for water. After a few weeks, my biology teacher helped me craft ideas about possible research topics. He mentioned something about a project involving Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Finally, I narrowed my project to “Impervious Surfaces Effect on Overall Stream Health” with the use of GIS. Quite frankly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. After hours and hours of data collection and mapping, I finally completed my project in time for the county science fair. My hope was to not get last place.
To my surprise, I was awarded the grand prize and was sent to the Intel International Science Fair (ISEF) in Arizona for a week. At first, I told my mom that I didn’t want to go. I told her I already knew I wanted to become a doctor and I didn’t see the point of going. Little did I know this would end up being the trip of a lifetime and changed everything I planned to do in the future. At ISEF, I met brilliant people from all over the world. There was never a dull moment and I was constantly running between the pin exchange, speakers, tours and ceremonies. I was even able to explore Sedona. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Although I didn’t win an award what I gained was priceless – finding my true passion. Once I arrived home from Arizona, I felt inspired to continue my research and have a career involving the Chesapeake Bay in some way.
Since my trip, I’ve become an avid kayaker and hiker. One of my favorite places to kayak is at Mallow’s Bay in Southern Maryland where the largest shipwreck in the Western Hemisphere can be seen. It’s an incredible place and soon will hopefully become designated as a National Marine Sanctuary. When I’m not outdoors, I’m usually at Crossfit or studying for one of my classes. Double majoring takes up a lot of time!
Finally, I ditched the idea of becoming a doctor and decided to double major in GIS and Communication at the University of Maryland, College Park. Although I wasn’t sure where this would lead, I’m very thankful for all of the opportunities I’ve had as a result of my decision. I’m in Sigma Kappa sorority and I’m on the executive board of the Maryland Public Relations Student Society of America chapter. Before my internship at the Choose Clean Water Coalition, I interned at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Mattawoman Watershed Society. Currently, I’m also working on a semester-long research project with a NASA scientist. I’m beyond excited to spend my last college semester in Annapolis at the Coalition!
Taylor Stark is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.