Eddie Witcher ’15 is using his passion for conservation biology to make a global impact this summer as an intern with the Ocean Conservancy. Working on the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) team, Witcher is helping with the organization’s efforts to reach their goal of maintaining a healthy, thriving ocean.
“The Ocean Conservancy focuses on cleaning up the oceans and preventing more and more pollution from getting into our waterways in order to conserve biodiversity and support our health, and the health of marine life,” Witcher says. “For decades ICC has organized volunteers to remove millions of pounds of trash from our oceans and waterways.”
In an effort to combat one of the world’s most pressing issues, Witcher is stationed in Washington, D.C., but the impacts of his tasks have global consequences. As an intern for the ICC team, Witcher is helping to plan and organize the International Coastal Cleanup Day, the organization’s main event.
Witcher explains that what sets ICC’s cleanups apart from other cleanups is that everyone who cleans gets a data card and records how much trash and what type of trash they’ve collected. This, he says, results in an “item-by-item, location-by-location” ocean trash index that provides the “only global snapshot of the ocean trash littering the world’s coasts and waterways.”
The International Coastal Cleanup Day will take place this year on Saturday, Sept. 20 when thousands of volunteers worldwide will gather to participate in coastal cleanups at various locations across the country and around the world. Witcher says he plans to travel back to D.C. for the local cleanup at Anacostia Park to help with the event and participate in the cleanup.
Witcher’s main contributions to the event include communicating with ICC’s volunteer coordinators in each U.S. state, as well as in 100 other countries worldwide.
Another aspect of Witcher’s internship is conducting research on how marine debris impacts specific marine wildlife, such as sea turtles, whales and dolphins. The information he finds will be used on a mobile app that the Ocean Conservancy is currently in the process of developing.
A biology major, Witcher says that not only were his courses – like aquatic biology and conservation biology – helpful in preparing for the internship, but also that the HWS alum network played an instrumental role in helping him discover the opportunity to intern with the Ocean Conservancy.
“Networking with alums and asking advice for help on landing an internship was really helpful,” says Witcher, who found the internship with the help of recent alum Nelle Crossen ’13. “Nelle told me about the Ocean Conservancy and I liked what I heard so I sent in my resume and a cover letter and after an interview I was hired.”
Though Witcher plans to pursue a graduate degree in zoology or wildlife biology after HWS, his internship this summer is giving him the experience that will help him excel when it comes time to enter the workforce.
“The biggest thing I have gained from this internship is the experience of working in an office setting,” Witcher says. “It’s also showed me a whole new perspective on what type of careers are out there for biology majors.”
In the photo above, Eddie Witcher ’15 poses with alum Nelle Crossen ’13 at the Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C., where Witcher interned this summer. Crossen helped Witcher land his internship with the International Coastal Cleanup Team.