Teaching students about Arctic adaptations during an OFI summer camp (2018). Photo Credit: Ocean First Institute.


There is an old expression, “A rolling stone gathers no moss”. The same must be true for ocean activist and OFI volunteer Sydney Eckert during her gap year between high school and college. This Longmont native has been too busy storing amazing experiences to stay in one place. This spring, she returned from Belize where she learned to spearfish in order to clear the reefs of invasive species, namely lionfish. She enjoyed primitive accommodations on a private island while visiting this small Caribbean nation.


Spear fishing for invasive species in Belize. Photo Credit: Sydney Eckert.


Prior to that adventure, Sydney volunteered at a sea turtle refuge in Indonesia. While there, she cleaned beaches and nurtured the newly hatched baby turtles. She explained that young turtles will feed off the surface of the sea and ingest small particles of plastic. Intervention means keeping turtles in a hatchery until large enough to dive deeper for their meals. Even so, only about one in one thousand sea turtles are expected to survive to reproduce. Turtle release days at the hatchery are celebratory events filled with optimism fueled by youth and the satisfaction of hard work.


Sydney posing with a sea turtle at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Photo Credit: Dr. Lindsey Dougherty 


Through connections with her family, Sydney began volunteering with OFI as a teenager. Drawn to the ocean as a result of family vacations at the beach, she learned to enjoy scuba diving and exploring the undersea world. Sydney finds great satisfaction in ecotourism and recommends companies like REEFCI and Green Lion Bali. She claims traveling solo pushes her out of her comfort zone and helps her narrow her interests for future activities.


OFI Director of Outreach Lauren Riegler is enthusiastic regarding the volunteer hours Sydney spends with the program, in particular the Girls in Ocean Science summer camps. Lauren remarks, “She’s amazing with kids and has been a huge inspiration to our young camp members.” When she’s not at OFI, you can find Sydney swimming with sea lions in Monterey Bay, California or tagging sharks with Dr. Mikki in Florida. No moss in sight!


Sydney helping to tag a tiger shark during an OFI Youth Research Expedition- with the Field School aboard the RV Garvin. Photo Credit: The Field School.


Guest blog post by Jennifer Rodehaver, Ocean First Institute volunteer and Annual Fundraiser Committee member.


Interested in volunteering with Ocean First Institute? Learn about potential opportunities here or contact OFI’s Director of Outreach at lauren(at)oceanfirstinstitute.org.