REEF members are the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. A diverse community of divers, snorkelers, and ocean enthusiasts support our mission to conserve marine environments worldwide.

This month, we highlight Education and Outreach Lead Intern, Riley Zoldi. Riley graduated from North Carolina State University with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.S. in Marine Science with a concentration in Biological Oceanography. She served as a REEF Marine Conservation Intern during the spring 2020 semester. She has also worked for New Logic Marine Science Camp, where she taught outdoor environmental education to children in coastal New Jersey. As a lead intern, Riley assists with the Ocean Explorers Program by scheduling, prepping, promoting, and teaching educational programs at the REEF Campus and offsite. Riley enjoys engaging with REEF members, both locally and worldwide, through education and outreach to spread marine conservation awareness. We're excited to have her on our team!

How did you become interested in marine conservation?
I have always loved the ocean and exploring coastal environments, but it wasn't until my senior year in high school that I realized studying the ocean was a possible profession. As part of my marine biology class, I traveled to Key Largo and learned about the local marine environment. From that trip on, I dreamed of returning to Key Largo and working in the marine science field in some capacity. Now I'm back in the Keys, working for REEF, and it feels great to have that dream come to fruition.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF's projects and programs?
I believe the most important aspect of REEF's projects and programs is their use of citizen science to get people from all over the world involved in marine conservation. Anyone anywhere can be a part of REEF's Volunteer Fish Survey Project, and I believe this is very important for marine science and the spread of environmental education.

What have your most valuable REEF experiences been so far?
My most valuable experience by far has been all of the amazing people I have met because of REEF. Every day I get to work with passionate and driven coworkers and live with people who share a love for the ocean. In addition to the REEF team, I love connecting with the local REEF members. Whether it's Fish & Friends, Garden Club, or another community outreach event, the sense of community REEF has created for marine enthusiasts is something I value greatly.

What are your goals for the upcoming year?
One aspect of the education program I am interested in advancing is the Ocean Explorers Expeditions. I want to transform this currently small trip program for higher education groups into a sought-after experience by all college students in the upcoming year. I also strive to grow our community presence by attending more local events and holding additional workshops once conditions are safe for these events to occur.

What projects are you particularly excited about?
I am particularly excited about REEF's Into the Blue Book Club. Into the Blue Book Club is something I have been working on since the first day of my Lead Internship, and I am ecstatic to see it be such a hit with REEF members and bookworms all over the world! I am excited to combine my reading hobby with my passion for marine conservation and share it with other marine enthusiasts.

What career path do you hope to pursue after completing your Lead Internship?
After completing my Lead Internship, I want to continue my career in environmental education. I am passionate about people, specifically children, learning in the environment that they are being taught about. My goal is to inspire children all over the world to advocate for the natural world. I am excited to see where this career path will take me!

What do you like to do outside of REEF?
When I'm not working, you will most likely find me outside. Whether it's walking, hiking, biking, or even just relaxing outside reading a book, I find peace when I'm surrounded by nature. I also love going on small adventures and look forward to exploring new places in the Florida Keys every weekend.

What is a fun fact about you?
I love to travel! I lived in Florence, Italy for a college semester and have been to 21 countries and counting. Experiencing new places and learning about other peoples' cultures is something I find particularly interesting. I cannot wait for my next trip once it is safe to travel again!