As a California native, my passion for the ocean started at a young age—in fact, just two months after I was born my father sat me on a surfboard for the first time. Ever since then, I have been hooked on surfing and working to preserve our oceans. I’m passionate about helping all the creatures in the ocean, which is why participating in Southwest Airlines’ Shark Week flight was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience! In high school I was a leader on my school’s Sustainability Council, where my goal was to reduce the amount of waste entering the oceans and landfills. I graduated high school this May and will begin studying marine biology at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa starting in the fall where I will be continuing my passion for the ocean!
During high school, I was also involved with GenHERation, an organization that brings companies and young women together with unique experiences and information. Through an opportunity with GenHERation and Southwest, I got the chance to really celebrate Discovery Channel’s Shark Week by flying on a Shark Week flight with marine biologist and TV personality, Luke Tipple. I’ve always been inspired by Luke and the incredible work he has done with Whale Sharks and Great Whites all over the world.
When I arrived at the Los Angeles Airport for the flight, Shark Week’s mascot, Chompie Jr., was there to greet us at the gate, along with the Tiger Shark plane—one of Southwest’s shark-inspired Boeing 737s. My Shark Week adventure continued as Southwest Employees outfitted with shark fin foam hats handed swag bags out to Customers. Inside the bag was a shark fin hat of my own and other Shark Week goodies.
Once we boarded the plane, I sat down with Luke to chat about sharks, his career as a marine biologist, and so much more. During our talk we discussed why it is so important to educate younger generations and get them involved with marine biology. In fact, Luke shared that watching young people get involved with science is what motivates him in his career. We found out that even we have a favorite shark in common—the Whale Shark! Although his favorite is split between the Whale Shark and the Great White and my other favorite is the Tiger Shark.
Every year, Shark Week airs FIN-tastic new shows and great stories. One episode I was super excited about is the “Shark Tank meets Shark Week” episode and the Snapchat special that Luke was involved with.
After my conversation with Luke, he addressed the entire Southwest plane about Shark Week: why sharks are important and why these animals are often misunderstood. Then the plane participated in a trivia game about sharks to win fun prizes!
After the trivia game, Luke and I talked a little more. He encouraged me to continue pursuing a career in marine biology and to stay passionate about sharks. In fact, the best advice he gave me was to follow my passion and success will follow. He said, “the work you do will only matter if you are doing what makes you happy.” I am so grateful for all the advice Luke gave me and for the opportunity Southwest helped coordinate.
I am excited to get out there and start my career in marine biology!