Kaitlynn VanNostrand ’09 wanted to get a job in Australia from the time she decided she was coming to HWS. After a couple of rough starts, she found the job, the funding and the adventure she was looking for. VanNostrand first tried the obvious approach to getting to Australia – study abroad – in her sophomore year, but was made captain of the sailing team so stayed in Geneva to compete. Still determined to make her dream a reality, she found a position with Passions of Paradise, an eco-tourism certified adventure boat that brings tourists on daily trips to the outer Great Barrier Reef from Cairns, Australia.
Next, she needed funding to get there but hit a snag when she applied for a highly-competitive stipend and didn’t win it. “I wouldn’t give up,” she explains. “I was in the office with Bob Murphy and Renee Nearpass every day looking for funding.” The Director of Career Services and the Assistant Director of Health Professions Counseling and Fellowship Advising, respectively, worked with her, the alum network and the Deans offices to help her find the necessary money for the opportunity. Eventually, an anonymous donor and a scholarship related to the William Smith Centennial came through and she arrived in Australia on June 7.
Since then, VanNostrand has been spending three days a week diving the Great Barrier Reef, introducing tourists to “Nemo.” “I am experiencing the reef firsthand, learning how to identify species (fish, coral and other animals) and taking in the beauty of the world heritage site that is the Great Barrier Reef,” she says. VanNostrand also has a job above the water-line, developing an interactive component to the Eye on the Reef (EOR) Monitoring Program. She has proposed ideas to initiate the program with passengers and will be testing three options for the remainder of her internship period.
“I’ve been testing when the best time is to include the passengers in EOR activities and will know which option is most successful by the end of the summer,” she says.
As a double major in environmental studies and economics, this aspect of the internship is particularly interesting because it involves working with Harvard-educated marine biologists who developed EOR to be used by anyone who dives the reef. It hadn’t been reviewed in a couple of years so this opportunity to give it a fresh set of eyes and educate people in the process appealed to her.
“I enjoy working with people and incorporating ways to teach about conservation,” she says. On the two days she spends off the water and in an office, she is helping Passions of Paradise find ways to offset its carbon emissions.
“I am excited to be a part of the company’s new initiative on their CO2 emissions audit. I am helping to make a much needed, industry-specific CO2 calculator, while in the U.S. we only have personal emissions calculators,” she explains.
VanNostrand is making the most of her time in Australia. On a recent day off, she visited the rainforest and took the skyrail across the canopy, then went to an aboriginal village where she was treated to dance performances. She calls the whole experience “unbelievable” and hopes to apply for a Fulbright grant in the future, so she can pursue similar work and study.
“I would not be here without the help and support of the Colleges – all the people who played a role to allow me to have this once in a lifetime opportunity. They are really helping me make my dreams a reality. I love this job and what I am doing here.”