For the youth poised to inhabit this planet for years to come, our current climate crisis is a chief concern, and many members of “Gen Z” have taken it upon themselves to become actively involved in efforts to protect the environment and the animals who live among us.
Sophomore marine biology major Olivia Hamilton of Northwest Missouri State University is one such student.
“I think one of my biggest worries is that we think we have time to fix it later, or that ‘someone else will fix it, so I don’t have to put in the effort,’” Hamilton said. “I don’t think many people understand that we’re running out of time, and fast, to be able to do something for the planet that’s given us a home.”
When Hamilton was younger, she initially wanted to be a veterinarian. However, she quickly realized that this career path would not suit her.
“I just didn’t think I could ever tell someone that their dog was dying and there was nothing I could do about it,” Hamilton said.
Thankfully, she had other interests that presented themselves as pathways to alternative professions.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved the ocean and anything that had to do with it,” Hamilton said. “Since I loved it so much, my dad told me I should consider pursuing marine biology later in life, and now, here I am!”
Aside from her father’s guidance, Hamilton was also influenced by a particularly enticing television program she viewed as a kid.
“I’m absolutely obsessed with Shark Week,” Hamilton said. “Every summer, Discovery Channel would put shows about sharks on for a week straight, and that soon became my favorite week of the whole year. I’m just so fascinated and enthralled by sharks and everything about them.”
As she came to learn more about sharks over the years, this fascination grew into a passion to protect them at all costs, especially with so many “anti-shark” narratives in society.
“I don’t think many people understand how vital the ocean and the health of the ocean is for our world,” Hamilton said. “I know lots of people are afraid of sharks, but if we get rid of sharks, the entire ecosystem would collapse, which would cause much more havoc on land than people could ever imagine.”
Looking ahead, Hamilton hasn’t fully committed to a single career in the marine biology field yet, but she knows that sharks will be her prime priority.
“My next step in life is to go get my master’s degree,” Hamilton said. “I’m not sure what my dream job is yet, exactly. I really just want to do anything I can to work with and help sharks.”
When taking a broader look at today’s environmental troubles in our oceans and beyond, Hamilton offered the following words of wisdom.
“Some people will believe what they want to believe no matter how many facts and examples of support you give them, but I think it’s always still important to continue to remind everyone over and over about what they can do to reduce every form of waste (carbon, plastic, etc.) they create so we can all try to help the environment get better, together.”