Decked out in snorkel gear and goggles, Alexandra “Lexie” Scott dove down to the bottom of the ocean floor, and took samples of the mud and sand to bring back to the lab at the University of Florida. She helped lead and teach kids to paddle down the river, to appreciate the nature around them.
This summer, the senior took an eight-week job in Apollo Beach with the American Fishery Society, working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife summer camps to teach kids to fish, seine, kayak, ID fish species, conduct mark-recapture studies, paddleboard and be responsible for the environment. Her activities varied daily however and she also took care of the animals on-site, such as a box turtle, a hamster, two corn snakes and an entire fish tank and touch tank. “If I wasn’t helping with the camps,” she said, “I was either working on my goby research project, touring somewhere like the FWRI (Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute), or helping with seagrass research.”
Scott went on multiple research trips trying to figure out the most effective way to bring back the ecosystem in patches of sand where speeding boats ripped up the seagrass. “[The UF student] was studying regular fertilizers, a form of recycled waste as a fertilizer and was trying to see which one helped the ecosystem restore itself first.” On this specific trip, she explains, “the main focus was going down there and collecting samples of the sand mud dirt and then bringing them back up for testing.”
In a second boat trip for research, they gathered different information but for the same cause of restoring the habitats. “We were going out there and doing sampling and counting the number of species of seagrasses out there. So you might see a lot of halodule but no thalassia turtle grass, which is the stuff we really want because that’s what sea turtles eat,” Scott explained.
Using Her Passion
Scott, a long-time animal lover, found the internship opportunity and decided to apply despite not knowing a lot about fish previously. “Surprisingly I got the job,” she said. The American Fishery Society then had to find a local position for Scott to work. Since Scott could and was willing to take the 35-60 minute drive out there every day, she worked on Apollo Beach. “I was definitely nervous for my first day because I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was also super excited,” she said. “I read about others experiences on the website so I knew that it would be an amazing opportunity no matter what.”
“It was a great opportunity, and it was super fun to actually be able to go out and do research. I got to work hands on, not only in education with kids but also with animals.” She said that her job last summer, cashiering at Panera, was extremely boring. Compared to her job this summer, filled with outdoor activities and hands on experiences, sitting and taking order after order is not what Scott would choose.
This eight-week experience is not the first of its kind for her. She is a founding member of the teen council at The Florida Aquarium, which started in the fall right after her summer work as a junior counselor at the aquarium last year.
Originally, Scott applied for the volunteer position because her combined interest in animals and her need for CAS hours. She worked hard at every job she was assigned as a junior counselor such as assisting with the camps, helping the staff out, educating visitors about galleries, helping to run the touch pools and helping out the guests.
“I even got to give the stingray spiels with the microphone at Stingray Beach!” Scott said. At the end of summer, she was invited by an executive to become a founding member of the to-be formed teen council. Scott urges students to apply to either junior councilor or the Teen Board. The applications for both can be found on The Florida Aquarium’s website.
Scott participates in all these different opportunities because of her life-long love for the environment. When she was two she wanted to be a paleontologist, and that changed to a veterinarian when she was 6.
“It’s funny because my birthday is actually on Earth Day, so it’s very fitting,” Scott said. The one aspect she loves the most (although she is passionate about every single one) are the animals. “Animals have been here for millions of years and then humans show up and suddenly everything is in danger. It’s crazy to think how big of an impact we have,” she said.
Along with her environmental oriented jobs, she occasionally speaks at climate conventions, the most recent being the Florida Climate Strike. Her speech focused on how teens weren’t only the voice of the future, they need to be the voice of today. “There is no time to push this matter back for our adult years,” she said in her speech. “We must take charge now.” The event was focused around the idea that protecting the environment will require more than our own personal decisions. It requires regulations from the government. “You can make changes in your own life that are amazing, but that there are also changes that have to be made at a governmental level,” Scott said. After high school, Scott doesn’t plan on stopping her activism. She hopes to study zoology or wildlife biology, possibly at UF.
“Does it suck that there are a lot of cars on the road?” she asked. “Yes, but another part of it is the agriculture industry. A lot of people don’t know but it’s the meat industry that produces the most amount of methane emissions.”