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Fishing for the future

Ostego Bay Foundation intern plans to study marine biology.

April 26, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Katie Clark is obsessed with sharks. Specifically, bull sharks and whale sharks.

And after two years of fostering her love of marine science as the Ostego Bay Foundation intern, the 18-year-old Alva native is ready to dive into a degree to learn more about her fanged favorites.

Clark says she was "raised on a kayak" by her dad, Todd, who would take her kayaking around the coast. He fostered her love of the water, and he's thrilled about her career path, she said.

Article Photos

Katie Clark plans to focus her studies on shark conservation.

Clark graduated two years early from high school and has been getting her associate in arts from Florida SouthWestern State University. During that time, she's also been working at the Ostego Bay Foundation's Marine Science Center, helping take care of the live creatures inside the center, teaching out-of-state visitors about Florida's marine life and assisting founder Joanne Semmer with the "Working Waterfront" tours.

"Joanne has definitely taught me a lot," Clark said. "She's been the backbone of supporting me."

While at Ostego, she's learned a lot about Florida's local waters and the creatures living in it. But this fall, she'll be moving to St. Petersburg with her two dogs, Zander and Stiles, to start her journey into a bachelor's degree in marine biology at Eckherd College. Her father was thrilled, she said, and even read her Eckerd admission letter before she could. The college is right on Tampa Bay, so he's already started planning kayak trips.

From there, she'll move on to get a masters and doctorate degree.

"It's very competitive and hard to get a job with just a bachelor's," she said. "I want to be my own boss someday."

Clark also wants to spend some time in the Peace Corps volunteering in countries to help them set up environmental programs.

Eventually, her main focus will be on shark conservation and protection. The ocean's predators are often a target for illegal fishing. There's even a "shark conservation club" at Eckerd.

Her favorite week of the year, of course, is Shark Week on Animal Planet.

"The thing about sharks is how misunderstood they are," she said. "They don't want to be close to you. You have to be careful but there is no reason to be afraid."



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