From Internship to Marine Educator with David Christopher
Marine Education Specialist
Delaware Sea Grant
I am in this career and where I am today because someone took a chance on me. In 1998, I was working as chemical compliance technician for a local army base. I had worked there almost three years and I hated the job. I realized it was time for a change. I saw an ad in a local newspaper for an Environmental Education Intern at Pickering Creek Audubon Center on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. At this point in my life, I had done a little education. I had done some work in local schools in college and spent a few months helping with sleepovers at the Maryland Science Center. Even with this experience, I really didn’t feel qualified to be an EE Intern. I was interviewed by Mark Scallion, who was then the Assistant Education Director. I remember vividly the interview and when Mark called back to offer me the job. The internship was a life changing experience. As an intern, I not only learned about education, but Mark also taught us about managing projects, animal care, maintenance and so much more. That internship paved the way for the rest of my career.
I can draw a direct line between that internship and where I am today. While at Pickering Creek, I took a WOW! Wonders of Wetlands class held by Environmental Concern, Inc. I really enjoyed it and I went to work for them after my internship ended. One of my first tasks at Environmental Concern was to present at NMEA 1999 in Charleston, SC. During the conference, I met Dr. Valerie Chase (along with many, many other people) from the National Aquarium. I hadn’t ever considered working for an Aquarium before meeting her, but a little over a year later I went to work at the National Aquarium. I was there for 18 years. Valerie Chase encouraged our involvement in NMEA (she was even NMEA president in 1989-90). I eventually served on the NMEA board and I am still the Bylaws Chair. Through my involvement with NMEA and my experience at the National Aquarium, I became familiar with Sea Grant, the National Sea Grant College Program. I have always been impressed with how Sea Grant supports the marine education community. Recently, when Delaware Sea Grant had a position open, I jumped at the chance to join the team.
I am not trying to say I didn’t work hard to get where I am. I did, but that internship gave me a starting point and skills to take the next step. Mark Scallion still works at Pickering Creek Audubon Center. I go back and help him out whenever he asks.
David just recently moved from the National Aquarium to Delaware Sea Grant. Since coming to Delaware Sea Grant, he has conducted K-12 marine education on University of Delaware’s Lewes campus, assisted researchers with the educational outreach portions of their projects, and hosted teacher workshops. He has also represented Delaware Sea Grant at various education events and meetings.