Over nearly three decades, REEF has welcomed more than 150 young adults to the REEF Campus to spend a semester immersed in marine conservation projects. This month, we highlight former Marine Conservation Intern Catie Alves. Read on to hear about Catie's time at REEF, and how her internship with REEF helped to shape her career.

When were you a REEF intern?
Summer and Fall 2013

What did you like the most about your internship?
I really liked all of the different projects we worked on, including the research, outreach events, and doing fish survey dives with different local shops. Through these projects, I met a lot of great people who inspired me to continue in marine conservation and who are lifelong friends.

Was there a goal or focus you had going into the internship?
I started the internship a week after graduating from college, so I was really looking forward to gaining experience working at a marine conservation non-profit, and to see where that took me.

Were there any big projects you worked on during the internship that had an impact on you?
I helped a lot with the lionfish research projects led by Dr. Stephanie Green, which gave me firsthand experience coordinating field research. I learned about the importance of data management, how to make decisions under pressure (including bad weather!), and how best to coordinate with dive operators and volunteers. From that experience, Dr. Green's mentorship, and working at REEF more broadly, I decided I wanted to become a leader in marine conservation research, ultimately pursuing my Ph.D.

What are you doing now (March 2020)?
I am currently finishing up my Ph.D. in ecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Dr. John Bruno. My research interests focus on coral reef ecology, fisheries management and interdisciplinary marine conservation efforts. I combine social science with ecology to inform improved management of tropical marine ecosystems. I am currently evaluating the effectiveness of community-based fisheries management in Belize from social and ecological perspectives, working closely with natural resource managers to build capacity and increase community engagement.

How has the REEF internship influenced or supported where you are now?
The REEF internship not only provided me with a variety of skills essential to success as a Ph.D. researcher, but with the exposure to a variety of career opportunities in marine conservation. Being a REEF intern solidified my goals of working in marine conservation science, particularly at the intersection of science, policy and communities. When I picture my future, I envision myself working closely with organizations like REEF to conduct research, develop new natural resource management plans, and educate the public. Thank you, REEF!