Tag Archives: Florida

The World of Manatees; Protection of Impact on Marine Life and Wildlife

City View from the Water; Boston, Massachusetts 12.2007
When I had departed the Texas Horizon it was almost Christmas. I am uncertain about your family’s traditions, but when the holiday season of Christmas came to the Benford household the world seemed to stop for this special event. I absolutely love the Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s holiday season; maybe it is because I am able to spend a substantial amount of personal time with my good friends or family? Or possibly it is because most people during this time are in good spirits and a little more warm-hearted? Perhaps it is generally just a well-liked holiday season and perfect for Snowboarding? Whatever the reason is, that time was quickly approaching and I was eagerly looking forward to spending it in my hometown. Before I had the holidays to get through, I had to first depart on December 21st from Boston, Massachusetts and then get a flight into Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Since I was working offshore for quite a while, a few of my colleagues and I decided to spend a day in Boston, Massachusetts before leaving to each of our final destinations. Taylor, Annya, Renae, and me all spent the day at the New England Aquarium, and then finished our evening at a nice restaurant overlooking the water. It was the perfect ending to a great rotation. 
Renae Keeping Warm; Boston, Massachusetts 12.2007

01′ Mustang Convertible; State College, Pennsylvania 10.2007

Jake Excited for My Visit; Rockwood, Pennsylvania 10.2007

Jake and I; Rockwood, Pennsylvania 10.2007

I managed to have a few days off in between some of the Boston project which had given me the chance to fly back to my mom’s house. In addition, I even managed to make time for a few days to visit Whitney and her family – “New Friendships Created; Reuniting Old Ones.” One of the best memories I had when I visited my family in Pennsylvania was not only the times that I would visit with my family, but also when I rented a 01’ Mustang Convertible for a couple of days and drove to PSU to visit a group of friends. The car was absolutely beautiful and was my favorite color baby blue – she rode very smooth in the perfect weather conditions! It was not snowing at this time, which made it ideal to use the convertible sunroof whenever I had the chance! I remember feeling like a million dollars when I landed in Pennsylvania – I was in the final completion stage of finishing my first official project and I was enjoying quality time with my fellow Penn Staters. The vacation at PSU was awesome (as always!); it was so nice to see several old friends’s smiling faces. 

My Little Brothers: Josh and Jake on Christmas Day; Rockwood, Pennsylvania 12.2007

My Favorite Picture of Jake on Christmas Day; Rockwood, Pennsylvania 12.2006
Mom and Jake; Rockwood, Pennsylvania 05.2006
When I arrived in Pennsylvania to visit my family for Christmas after my project was finished, I noticed a large pile of snow that had conveniently placed itself in front of our driveway. That winter was definitely one of the coldest winters that I remember having in Pennsylvania. Maybe it was the new beach babe in me, but I was pretty chilly! I spent my Christmas with my gram and with most of my mom’s 8 brothers and sisters. I love our family gatherings – this time I created a slide show with music displaying my favorite photographs from the Boston project. My little cousins were very enthusiastic about my presentation – I absolutely love little kids and their positive energy. I remember I was on call to leave again for work and had to disappear at a moment’s notice for Florida if needed. Thankfully I was able to visit with my gram for our family gathering – at first, I was afraid that I would not have had the chance to see her when I was in town. Ironically, the next day after my family gathering I was told that I had to come back to Florida to start a manatee dredge job (more on this later). 
Two Manatees Cuddling; Melbourne, Florida: Crane Creek 12.2007
What are manatees you may ask? Manatees are slow moving mammals that utilize their front flippers to crawl along ocean or river bottoms. Their flat, horizontal tails move up and down to gracefully glide them through the water. Unfortunately, Manatees are endangered – mostly due to the collisions with boats, which leave a pattern of scars on their backs or tails; however, some of these collisions may be fatal. Researchers use these patterns of scars as a key to identify the particular individual. Besides boat collisions, Manatees also have been found crushed or drowned in flood-control gates. Currently Manatees have been documented drastically suffering from pollution and habitat loss. I was anticipating working on Crane Creek in Melbourne, Florida because this is where large amounts of Manatees were observed. I have never seen a Manatee before; I was stoked to see my first one! 

Manatee Saying Hello; Melbourne, Florida: Crane Creek 12.2007
I originally made plans with one of my best friends from college, Leslie, to spend our New Year’s Eve together at PSU – “Last Destination Florida; the Road Trip down the Chosen Path.” Of course, when I was told to pack my bags and be on the next flight out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania I had to cancel our plans. This was one of my first times that I had to postpone our plans; I felt horrible!  Luckily, Leslie was super understanding and we had made preparations for her to come down during Spring Break 2008 (more on Spring Break 2008 in future posts) to visit me. The next thing I knew I was on an airplane to Orlando, Florida; someone from the Ecoes office was coming to the airport to pick me up. I had asked MJ to start my car every month while I was on the Boston project to make sure that my car still had the juice that it needed to run. In other words, starting my car on occasion would keep the battery alive and ready to run when needed it to. Long story short, when I arrived back to the Ecoes office my car would not start at all, not even a smudge. Mary Jo’s or MJ’s husband Stephen offered to bring me to back to their house since it was late in the evening. Ironically, I discovered over dinner and drinks in Boston, Massachusetts that my cousin (who I never really knew that well) Stephen was married to MJ. How is that for a small world? Bottom line:  I was not hired for this position due to my family ties; MJ explained that she hired me due to my impressive CV and great personality.  
Manatee Struck by Boat Propeller; Melbourne, Florida: Crane Creek 01.2008
Anyways, I came back to the house with Stephen and recapped some great memories in Boston, Massachusetts with MJ – it was a great night! The next morning I was taken to my car around 10am. Unfortunately, it took my car an hour to start with the jumper cables – I never had any problems with my car until this event. My manatee dredge job was scheduled to start the next morning so it was imperative that I had a working vehicle – I had to drive to Melbourne, Florida. The road trip was about an hour away and I needed to be guaranteed that I would make it to work instead of being stuck at the side of the road. Finally, after getting the car started I had arrived safely back in my condo that I had not seen in 4 months – it was such a great feeling to see all of my personal belongings again. Later that evening I was able to purchase a battery, fix my car temporarily, and make preparations for work the following day. The next morning I woke up and discovered that my car was not working! I overheard MJ tell Stephen that Meghan was working with me on this project – I hopped it was Meghan from the Boston project! I called her really early in the morning and found out that she was working the project with me! I was relieved – she even offered to give me a ride to the project site! Wow, she was quite the life saver! 

Manatee Tail Displayed Above Surface; Melbourne, Florida: Crane Creek 01.2007
My first day’s schedule was a bit ridiculous. I woke up at 5am, got ready for work, and packed my lunch – I felt that I had just been presented a job as a Construction worker! Luckily, Meghan was cool about picking me up – she arrived around 6am. Before I left my house I double checked and triple checked that I had everything I needed for the day. Meghan and I were scheduled to work at 6:45am, but were not punctual due to my lack of great directions – well technically we were never given “great” directions. In result, we reached our destination at 7:05am. The Ecoes office was not particularly keen about our tardiness, but hello we were working in the middle of nowhere near dirt roads – it happens! The crew was not bothered by it; they were running a little behind this morning. I arrived at the “actual” job site around 8:45am (the crew had to move some pipeline and were held up for a while).
I rode out in a little crew boat (very small) with Meghan. Meghan was dropped off on the barge that was about 75m parallel me. I got dropped off on someone’s dock to observe the dredge from that point. I was on a person’s private property; their fishing boat was right beside me – talk about feeling strange and uncomfortable. After seeing nothing for 4 hours, and standing on a hard dock while trying to observe around the dredge, the homeowners come down to greet me. They were actually pretty cool, but I still apologized profusely for being on their property. They were super sweet – I recall them stating that, “as long as we are helping the manatees out, then that we are more welcomed to stay.” What an awesome feeling to reassure that I was part of a greater cause in the area; the locals were really interested in their natural surroundings. Though it was torturous baking in the 90 degree weather and trying not to die from heat exhaustion, I still maintained to enjoy the project and oversee the wildlife that passed through. Another perk to the job was that Meghan and I were provided with walkie talkies so that we can communicate about our sightings. Some of the time we used this tool to keep each other’s spirits up – the weather definitely took its toll on us!
What is a dredge job you may ask? During this particular project plans are to hydraulically dredge Crane Creek located within Melbourne, Florida.  A discharge pipe would run from the dredge up to the staging area, which is the designated dredged material handling site.  The dredged material will be sent to an offsite location prior to a final placement location. Based upon the Sediment testing results, most of the dredged material is expected to be put to beneficial use rather than being sent to a landfill for disposal. The dredge will be operating within an enclosure to limit the migration of suspended sediments away from the dredging site.  No navigation within the enclosure area will be possible.  The enclosure will be as small as practical so as to limit its interference with navigation.  The dredge and the enclosure will also move frequently so that the amount of time any one place is blocked will be very limited. During active dredging, the dredge discharge pipeline will be in place and has the potential to interfere with vessel navigation locally.  To the extent practical, the pipeline will be submerged and marked with buoys so that most vessels can safely pass over it. 
The local that I mentioned earlier brought up the question, “Will this dredging damage my dock?” The dredging program has set the cut of the dredge away from any existing structures and pilings, so that they will not be damaged.  Before dredging, a comprehensive site inspection was completed to examine the dredging areas to identify structures and existing conditions so that the program could be modified as necessary to avoid damage to structures and to document the conditions of existing structures including seawalls, docks, and mooring pilings boat lifts. His wife’s question was, How will the project impact marine life and wildlife?” Preserving and enhancing the environmental health is one of the key objectives of the dredging project. According to studies conducted to analyze the material, its contents are organic in nature and will not release unsafe chemicals into the water and wildlife. In addition, the dredging will be done hydraulically, a method specifically designed to minimize turbidity in the water and protect wildlife.

First Sighting of Manatee; Melbourne, Florida: Crane Creek 12.2007
Manatee Surfacing Snout First; Melbourne, Florida: Crane Creek 12.2007

The dredge project was a success. I had a few sightings of Manatees – one of the most memorable moment was when I was radioing Meghan and all of a sudden, two nostrils appeared out of the water about 10m in front of my face! I was super confused at this point, but quickly had become aware that there were four Manatees all lying on the seabed  only a short distance in front of me. Immediate action was taken, the dredge was halted, and the observation of the Manatee was carefully documented. After the sighting, Meghan and I were able to take a speed boat and follow their trail for a little bit until we had to turn around near the trees. The project was unique, I was able to meet some cool locals, witness Manatees, drive a speed boat, and work with one of my really good friends, Meghan. I would definitely work a project like this again!
I worked the manatee dredge for only a few days before my departure for my next project. I spent my New Year’s Eve with Meghan and her family. Meghan and I stopped by Mary Jo’s or MJ’s on New Year’s Day and visited for a while. I spoke with Whitney on the phone for a little – she had called MJ’s house to discuss her current project. Whitney was already in the Gulf of Mexico and I was on my way soon to join her – whether it was the same ship or the same fleet, this I was uncertain about. It would have been nice if we were able to work together on my first project in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). Wishful thinking, I suppose! 
A few days later I was on a flight to Lafayette, Louisiana to partake in my HUET (Water Survival/ Helicopter Underwater Egress Training) in Lafayette, Louisiana and then headed to my second project which was now located in the Gulf of Mexico.


If interested in an additional reading about Florida Manatees and dredging – Read this article, “Florida Manatees Appreciate Spring Clean”

Welcome to a New Chapter; Shaping My Future as a Marine Biologist

Walking Down the Chosen Path; Cape Canaveral, Florida 10.2008

My family had stayed for a few days and helped me settle into my condo. My aunt Shir is a fabulous cook – my favorite dish that she made me religiously as a kid was famously called, “Chicken a La Jessica;” this included cheesy mozzarella garlic bread! The main dish had an assortment of vegetables and small pieces of chicken soaked in olive oil; the perfect weekend dinner meal. Sorry I kind of got lost in the moment there! Anyways, before my aunt Shir left she taught me a few quick dishes to create for on the go. 
Beautiful Cloudy Day; Cape Canaveral, Florida 10.2008
Once both the cars were unloaded I officially felt at home. I had training for my new job the next morning after I arrived in Cape Canaveral, Florida. My brother Jake loves to go fishing; while I drove towards the Ecoes office, my family accompanied my uncle Matt and went fishing on the Indian River for the morning until the late afternoon. As I continued my drive towards Cocoa, Florida with my sunroof open, I listened to the cool wind breeze brushing through my hair, smelled the fish and salt water seeping from the local fish markets nearby, and viewed a beautiful sunrise over the ocean. I cannot believe how long it took me to be in such a beautiful and peaceful place, but I knew at that moment that this was a great location to call my home

Paradise; Cape Canaveral, Florida 10.2008
I quickly arrived to my destination and was overly excited to know that today will shape my future in the field of Marine Biology. Proudly I walked into the office and recognized Mary Jo or MJ and several other unfamiliar faces. The classroom was filled with a dozen of people in their chairs. The week for the Protected Species Observer (PSO)/ Safe Gulf training went really well; there was a high focus on the marine environment and a brief overview of the identification of marine mammals and sea turtles. 

After reflecting on the past and recapping the challenges I faced, this moment in time revealed what I have been waiting for since I was 3 years old. I am one step closer to achieving my goals and studying cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in their own natural habitat. One really cool Biologist that I met during the training was this cute brunette girl named Whitney – “Offshore Lifestyle Unraveled; a Greater Appreciation for Marine .” We started chatting the first day outside the classroom during our break. One immediate similarity we shared was that we both adored our sororities and missed our college years deeply. I discovered that she is a Phi Mu alum as well! It really is a small world! If you know anything about the Greek life, you would know that this is an instant connection to the sisterhood. Whether or not she would have been a Phi Mu, the Greek affiliation brings us closer together already. I highly recommend “Going Greek” if you crave adventure and life-long friendships.

At the end of the week training was completed. One of the most unforgettable experiences of that week, besides my training, was when my little brother Jake saw the ocean for the first time. Being the great big sister that I am, I took his hand and guided him into the ocean – I may have kicked water on him on a bit to give him the full effect of the ocean. I tried to explain years what the ocean meant to me, but it was not until that moment where he fully understood why I wanted to live and work on the ocean. Reality had sunk in after my family had left to drive home – I was leaving the next morning for my first project as an official Marine Biologist. My first offshore assignment… Boston, Massachusetts to research and carefully observe the North Atlantic right whale!

Beach, Sand, and Sun; Cape Canaveral, Florida 10.2008

7 Ways to Avoid Getting Your Car Keyed; Fabulous Florida Spring Break 2007

I learned a few important lessons in Cocoa Beach, Florida when my car was keyed during spring break 2007. I thought that I would share these with you, enjoy!
I would like to dedicate this post to the girls “The Chosen Path Revealed; Epic Spring Break Adventure.” Thank you for pushing me to call the cops and sitting on the corner curb with me to wait for them! It only took them 30 minutes to finally show up!  Of course while I was talking to the cop, the girls were chatting to some cute Navy boys and planning our night! Good times!
How to Avoid Getting Your Car Keyed During Spring Break:
  • 1.        Plan on driving to a popular spring break location, which the parking lot or parking spot where you park has a camera. Most hotels have cameras nearby and if they do not, then find another spot! I realize that in the whole state of Florida it sometimes can be hard to find a magical, lit, and comfortable spot to park in; however, it can be done! Most of the 3-4 star hotels have lighting and a security guard nearby. 
  • 2.        Check your college football team stats before you drive your “precious” car to your spring break destination. During the past year of 2006 the Pennsylvania State University crushed Florida State University in the Orange Bowl, which was held in Miami Gardens, Florida. Since my college beat them the year before, they must have been really upset! Talk about a long time to hold a grudge!
  • 3.        Resist from being a smart ass! If you are playing beach volleyball against a larger group of rivals who keep chanting how badly your college football was the previous year (even though this was bogus!), then politely smile and avoid any smart comments to the opposing team. Sooner or later they will start challenging each other to a “friendly” drinking game aka chugging a whole can of beer in one gulp. The focus will be off of your college and onto a new topic, “How many beers can I drink in 2 minutes?” This could lead to a quick beach volleyball game, since the other team has “passed” out. Just think how great it would if a dog came up and did its business on them! No words needed, priceless.
  • 4.        Find a parking place that is located close to the beach, maybe in eye sight of where you and your friends are hanging out. It is always important to make sure that your “pride and joy” is out of harm’s way. A car alarm would surely help this situation! Be aware the occasional spring breaker may come and do his business (yes, usually this is a guy!) right next to your car. If he is taking a while and eying up your car, then politely ask one of your muscle head guy friends to go assess the situation. If you are only with girls, find a really hot big “muscled” man (preferably with a group of other hot men) and ask for him to respectfully remove the man away from your car. If you are with a wimpy guy and/or there are no hot guys around, then you and your girlfriends march up to him and courteously tell him to go to a different location. If he is giving you a hard time, then show him that you mean business by posing in your best karate move position!
  • 5.        Avoid at all costs being a smart ass, but if you happen to layer the smart ass comments on a little thick then you should have a backup plan. If you and your girlfriends happen to smash the opposing team, then weigh out the following options. A) Drinks are involved; rowdiness may occur and more trash talk will be spitting out of their mouths. Do not panic, just smile and nod and think to yourself how would anyone find these guys attractive?!? Do laugh hysterically with your girlfriends as you are trying to decide which one is the alpha male. If they walk towards your car, do follow closely behind and predict their every move. B) If drinks are not involved and you and your girlfriends beat them, closely watch what they are doing and listen to what they are talking about. The mistake that the girls and I made was that we were too busy giggling about our planned itinerary for the week instead of listening to what the group of guys was quietly whispering.
  • 6.        Remove your college stickers before you road trip to your spring break desired location. This would eliminate all worst case scenarios and in the end will make you have an awesome spring break! The great thing about adhesive window decals is that most of them are easily removable, if they are not then head down to the local “Auto Zone” and purchase some adhesive remover. Better yet, the old razor blade trick works just as well. Decals are really cheap, maybe next time you decide to buy a few stickers for your ride, pick up some extras.
  • 7.        Take a “party” bus to your spring break location. Avoid driving all together! This would help you and your girlfriends make new friends and plan the party as it comes. Any slight of discomfort about leaving a vehicle behind is out of your worries. Also, this would save you from a situation of “drinking and driving;” if you are idiotic enough to do this in the first place!

Penn State Football Crowd; University Park, Pennsylvania 11.2006
I hope this helps you to avoid the situation that my girlfriends and I were in. The first mistake tied into with the location where we parked my car. Not only did we park in a non-lit parking spot, but it also turned out to be the only place on the entire side street that did not have a camera installed next to it. The next mistake we executed was that we were not paying attention to what the “drunken hot boys” were saying; we were mainly focused on ourselves and wrapped into our own conversation. The third mistake we created was that my car was never fully in eye sight of the girls and I while we were hanging out and playing beach volleyball. The last mistake that we made was that I did not carefully remove my PSU decals before we left. My car lit up like a PSU Christmas tree! My sorority sticker: Phi Mu was inside the glass (thank goodness!), but all of my other stickers on my car were ripped and torn next to my car. Of course, with the lovely key indentation markings formed on my car, you can also add a 4 inch knife blade that was conveniently scratched into my driver and passenger door panels.
Remember to have a fabulous spring break, but be cautious about your environment and your car’s surroundings. A few extra steps taken from this list and few added precautions will eradicate the hassle of waiting for a cop for 30 minutes. In the meantime, you could have been hanging out with the cute six-pack shaped boys on the beach!

The Chosen Path Revealed; Epic Spring Break Adventure

The Girls: Shannon, Me, Anjoli, Lindsay, and Troxler; Cocoa Beach, Florida 03.2007
In the beginning of building this site I have given you some background information on how my interest evolved in Marine Biology over the earlier years of my life. I am sure that more articles will appear in the future, but for now it is time to reveal the chosen path that has led me to where I am now. 
During 2007 I was faced with one of the most important decisions in my life. “Where do I go from here?” I was in my super senior year (I love this term!) and was pursing my Wildlife & Fishery Science degree: Fishery Option and two minors in Biology and Marine Science.  Not to mention that I was in a Panhellenic Sorority: Phi Mu. I was desperately looking for a connection to place me in the field of my interest. I even contemplated asking my sorority sisters if they knew any Phi Mu alumna in the Environmental Field. I was determined to find a “real” job outside of Pennsylvania. I was not 100% sure where to start applying first, but I thought that I would start with Florida. I needed to find a way to place my foot in the door. I was hoping that all the sorority community events, clubs that I participated in, and “hands on experience” projects that I accumulated during my undergrad would help me land an amazing job opportunity in the Marine Field. 
I became really focused that year emailing research companies worldwide; I even applied to a few in the UK. I was not receiving many responses, but I was determined to not give up! I knew that if I could just get 1 interview out of the 50 that I was applying for, then I would be one step closer to reaching my ultimate goal: Become a successful international field Marine Biologist. Of course, this is a lot easier said than done! Lucky for me and my fellow PSU classmates’ spring break was coming up right around the corner! I juggled several “typical” spring break locations back and forth; trying to decide where my good friends and I wanted to travel to. Before spring break arrived, I spent the previous month emailing more companies and attempting to answer the life-puzzling question that seemed to haunt me. “Where do I go from here?” Should I inquire about a job with the Fish & Game Commission in Pennsylvania or could I challenge myself to work and live on the West Coast for a few years?   
The girls – Shannon, Anjoli, Lindsay, Troxler, and I decided on a warm tropical location and a place where you can have beach, beer, and sand literally at your fingertips! As they were determining the destination for spring break, I was busy emailing Florida Environmental companies and trying to set up some interviews for my birthday month of May. Ironically, all of my replies regarding interview dates were located in Florida and the girls’ final decision on where they wanted to spend their spring break… FLORIDA! I penciled in 4 interviews during our spring break and starting making final preparations for the big road trip! I found myself driving my black 2 door 97’ Honda Civic with 4 other girls riding with me and luggage packed in every corner of my car! To this day, I still have no idea how you can comfortably fit 3 girls in the back seat of that tiny “sporty” Civic?  I suppose we were all filled with a drive for adrenaline! Needless to say, this would be an epic adventure! D The girls and I drove 18 hours to arrive in the city of Cocoa, Florida. My uncle Matt lived in Cocoa and we decided to stay with him for the first 2 days of our trip. 
As soon as we arrived at my uncle’s place, we ran inside and immediately freshened up to hit the beach! I recall 4 red bulls later, 0 hours of sleep (we were all too excited to sleep as soon as we entered Florida state!), and sheer adrenaline pumping out of my system crammed with excitement. The girls already jam packed themselves in my car again and were anxiously awaiting our trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida; this was about 20 minutes down the road. I knew I had several interviews in the morning and one of the offices was located pretty close to where I was. I convinced the girls to come with me and double check my interview time for my first morning appointment at Ecoes Environmental Consulting. To my surprise, I pulled into a small brown complex with various little shops surrounding some trees in the parking lot. I noticed a woman standing behind the trunk of her van pulling out some boxes. The girls decided to check out the surf and ice cream shops nearby; I headed towards the woman to ask her where Ecoes was located. While I made my way to her direction to politely ask where the office was located, I thought to myself how great it would be to live down here. My uncle is literally right down the street and the beach is only a few minutes away. I would love to live near the beach and see the incredible sunrises over the powerful blue oceanI have longed for this moment. I would definitely be in heaven! 
I finally reached the woman and asked about the office location. As she was picking up the last box she mentioned that she was headed to the Ecoes building.  She quickly put down the boxes and introduced herself as Mary Jo the owner of Ecoes Consulting! You should have seen the look on my face; I did not know whether to smile or kick myself in the butt for not knowing this sooner! Either way, I tried to make the best first impression. I was about to mention my name when she said, “You must be Jessica Benford from the Pennsylvania State University, from the sound of your emails you want to become a respectable Marine Biologist.” I quickly felt my heart sink into my chest; how did this woman know who I was? Better yet, how did she remember my name? I felt a huge grin on my face as I replied, “Wow, it is great to finally meet you.” She gave me a huge smile back and asked if I would accompany to her office. I asked to carry one of her boxes, which seemed to please her. We walked towards her small corner office and I placed the boxes on the desk. I looked around and saw a few articles of Marine Mammals hanging on the wall. In the corner I recognized a large projector screen that dropped down next to what appeared to be a classroom. I thanked Mary Jo for taking the time to let me see her office. As I was about to turn around and head outside, she told me to call her MJ and if I had a few more minutes to discuss the position that she had offered me. At this point, I was ecstatic! I felt like a kid on Christmas morning that discovered her first toy (the kind of toy that you “actually” wanted!).
Celebration Drinks at Local Pub; Cocoa Beach, Florida 03.2007
I explained that I have some friends waiting outside and that if I could go tell them that I would be a few minutes, then I would love to sit down and talk with her about the job opportunity.  She agreed; I ran outside with this massive grin on my face and a brush of exhilaration overcoming my body. It took a minute or two to catch my breath; I then explained to the girls that I need a few more minutes with MJ. They all seemed to look at me quite puzzling and asked all at once, “Who’s MJ?” As I took off towards the office and rounded the tree hanging next to the sidewalk, I yelled back, “I will tell you later!” I reached the office and MJ had opened the door for me. I noticed a series of papers sitting on the desk. Here I am dressed in flip flops, board shorts, and a tank top about ready to be interviewed by a woman company owner and well-respected Marine Biologist who actively participates in Endangered Species Conservation for the United States. I excused my wardrobe as she chuckled and expressed that it was the perfect outfit for this job. I did not know quite what to think about that, but I sat down and eagerly looked forward to our discussion. 
MJ pulled out my recent CV that I emailed her a few days ago. As she was skimming through it, she made a few great comments under her breath. After we talked for 15-20 minutes, she printed a document off of her computer and asked me to read over it quickly. The first line read, “WELCOME TO ECOES ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTING, YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED TO WORK FOR THE OIL & GAS INDUSTRY ON VARIOUS PROJECTS WORLDWIDE!” I almost fell out of my chair! Seriously, am I being hired as a Marine Mammal Scientist? Did I just get this job? Does this mean that I am moving to Florida? MJ gazed upon me and asked me what I thought about this position. I responded in a very enthusiastic voice, “I would thoroughly enjoy working for you and your company.” She seemed really pleased with my answer. We discussed my starting date, my potential moving date to Florida, my job description in further detail, and the date of my graduation from PSU. I could not believe that I was presented a job on the spot! This NEVER happens to me! Random fact, I worked for my grandfather’s restaurant in Pennsylvania and he did not offer me the job right away; he called me a few days later to tell me that I could start working for him! 
A Local Pub near the Beach; Cocoa Beach, Florida 03.2007
After MJ and I had finished our discussion, I thanked her many times before walking out of her office. We both agreed to keep in touch and her final words to me were, “I look forward to having you on my team.” What a great morning! A rush of emotions of enthusiasm and happiness seemed to take over my body and all hit me at once. I found the girls eating ice cream next to my car. I excitedly starting jumping up and down; their faces were priceless! I told them the good news and they started jumping around the parking lot with me! I remember the girls saying how proud they were of me; which showed me the tremendous support and great friends that I have in my life.  We drove to Cocoa Beach and grabbed a parking spot in front of a local surf shop. We decided to celebrate spring break PSU style! Beach, beer, sand, and volleyball were all involved; it was a great afternoon. I called all of my friends and family back home spreading the good news. One important moment that I remember within the mist of all the excitement was the phone call I had with my mom. I am glancing at the ocean, listening to the waves crash into the rocks, and hypnotized in a mental stage of utter bliss. This would be the new place that I would soon call home. I finally knew “Where I am going from here!”
Police to the Rescue; Cocoa Beach, Florida 03.2007
Quick recap of Spring Break: Ironically, I met my “future” roommate playing beach volleyball; Matt worked for the Kennedy Space Center and was looking to fill his extra room in his condo for the summer. Disneyland, Fort Lauderdale (or my personal favorite Fort Liquordale), and Jacksonville were all part of the girls and I’s “typical” spring break. We all had a fabulous time, especially with the never ending celebration week of my Marine Biologist position in Florida! In the end I decided to cancel all other interviews that I had originally planned and accepted MJ’s offer that week in Florida. Despite the unfortunate event of spring break – my car was keyed due to the coverage of PSU stickers on it (least this is what the cop said), it was an epic spring break and one that will be remembered for the rest of my life