Marine Conservation in the Turks & Caicos

Gabriella Herrera Start Date: Nov 5, 2019 - End Date: Aug 4, 2020
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • South Caicos and East Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands

My Travel Story

by: Gabriella Herrera Start Date: Nov 5, 2019 - End Date: Aug 4, 2020
I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was 13, but I didn't know why. People would constantly ask me why I chose marine biology, and I responded honestly saying, "I don't know." It wasn't until I began my college application process when I realized why this science meant so much to me. I have grown up hearing about the detrimental state of marine life, the ice caps, dying ecosystems, and decreasing air quality. I already had a predestined desire and longing to help the earth when I was 13, but I didn't know how to express that yet. However, time is of the essence. Being born in 2000 has put me at a disadvantage with my goals. I constantly worry that I won't be able to help the earth until it is far too late. Hearing about the fire in the Amazon rainforest torments me because I can't do anything to help. Hearing about commercial fishing grieves me because I can't help. Hearing about dying coral reefs agonizes me because I can't help. It will be years before I can make an impact beyond using reusable bags at the grocery store. This program will give me the power to make a meaningful change for the first time in my life. Some people want to be doctors to directly impact humanity, and I want to be a marine biologist to directly impact the earth.

The School for Field Studies will help me kick start my aspirations. I'll be in the Turks and Caicos to actively learn about marine conservation and megafaunas. I won't be sitting at home feeling helpless as I use toothpaste packaged in a biodegradable bottle. This program will change the course of the rest of my professional career.
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • South Caicos and East Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands


  • Bake Sale - 12/29

    Bake Sale - 12/29
    My feet still hurt, I don’t have much of a voice today, but I have more memories today than I did Saturday(12/28). It all started on Friday (12/27). My mom spent most of her day looking for fun recipes. I cleaned the entire house. My brother ran errands. My mom and I went to Arne’s, Tuesday Morning, Hobby Lobby, and Kroger. We invested $150 in supplies and groceries. I had been losing sleep trying to figure out how this sale would be profitable, and that night I was out of hope. “No one is going to come.” “Who wants to buy cookies made by a young girl in her kitchen?” “The cookies are going to dry out before anyone shows up.” After a long day of cleaning and errands, my mom told me to go to bed and rest my mind. “Don’t think about it, just get some rest,” she said.

    Saturday rolls around, and I am not ready to wake up. My alarm goes off at 9, but I roll around until 10. I finally jump up, wash my face, brush my teeth, pull my hair back. My mom had been eagerly waiting to make a Blueberries and Cream Coffee Cake. We decided to make that first because it had the longest baking time. Once it was in the oven, we tore apart our living and dining room. We moved tables, chairs, sofas, and pianos into our bedrooms. We put tablecloths over all of our counter space and brought out the cooling racks. We were ready for a long day of baking. We made the coffee cake, ginger cookies, chocolate glazed brownies, popcorn cookies, peanut butter chocolate chip brownies, peanut butter blossom cookies. My dear friend, Yaritza, came over to help for a few hours. Before I knew it, it was 4:30 and I had to shower and go to church to sing. I put on my heels as usual, but the unusual part was that my feet felt like I had needles in them. I had never been more uncomfortable at church. All I could do was shift my weight from leg to leg while I sang Angels We Have Heard on High. When I got home, we made a pineapple upside down cake and cupcakes. My mom asked if I was hungry, and I answered honestly, “I can’t tell.” I was so tired from running around, carrying heavy furniture, cleaning, and standing all day. We decided to go ahead and pick up burgers and sit for an hour before finishing baking. While we ate, our first customer showed up. She took our German Chocolate Cake that a church friend, Julia, kindly donated. We watched half of The Devil Wears Prada to stall going back to the kitchen. When we gained the energy to return to what turned into a prison cell, we started making chocolate chip cookies. And then, catastrophe. Our beautiful soft, brown Peanut Butter Blossom cookies arranged carefully on a glass platter slid right off its platform. Glass everywhere. Cookies everywhere. All of the worries I had in the weeks leading up to this weekend came rushing back. “We can finish the chocolate chip cookies, make another batch of the peanut butter cookies, ginger cookies and extra cake, and then go to bed.” It was already 10 at this point. We counted our leftover ingredients, and we were shy a few eggs, 2 cups of brown sugar, and a cup of peanut butter. Should we run to the store? It’s going on 11. I’m going delirious. Is it safe to be driving? My brother, our saving grace, came home from work and drove my mom to Kroger while I made a batch of ginger cookies. They got home at midnight, we still had peanut butter cookies, and a coffee cake to make. 10 minutes later, it was Sunday morning 7 am.

    I hopped out of bed this time because those cookies and that cake were waiting to be made. My mom and I were in sync. I was doing a final wipe down of all the counters, organizing plates, bags, containers unwrapping trays of cookies, putting out labels. My mom was whipping batter and putting things in and out of the oven. A car pulls up. Two more cars pull up. People walk over from church. My neighbor makes an entrance. People who have watched me grow up stand around and ask about my trip and my projects. I’ve created an event for all the people I love to mingle and get to know each other. My roommate, Perla, came with her mom to drop off Buñuelos, which were a huge hit with everyone. My best friend, Meranda, showed up with her family. At the same time, friends my brother has known since kindergarten show up. My friends, Anthony and Francisco show up. Everyone talking to each other. Looking at baby pictures of me, reading a research proposal, my syllabi. All strangers to each other with one common ground, my love for them. I couldn’t feel my feet after 3. My brother picked up tacos for my mom and I at 1, and we didn’t have time to eat them until everyone left after 8. I was packing food, teaching people how to use QR codes, and giving the sincerest thanks to everyone. The biggest surprise was when I saw my cousin from Detroit jump out of a car.

    As soon as the first customer showed up, everything else left my mind. I was overjoyed the entire day. I don’t know how I got so lucky to be surrounded by such supportive people. I regret losing so much sleep over this event because I should have had faith in my community. I will never forget this day. I hope everyone who came liked everything we made. I raised $685. Once again, thank you to everyone who showed up and donated.
  • Chocolate Con Pan Dulce! - 12/22/19

    I could not fall asleep last night with all of this fundraising on my mind. Unfortunately, I had to wake up early today to, once again, sell hot chocolate with sweet bread. I woke at 7 am - significantly earlier than I ever wake in college. My mom and I loaded our van up to go out where people would be all day. We bought 100 pieces of galletas and pan dulce, and we had 100 cups. This time we had access to a kitchen, so we made the hot chocolate on the spot. We were standing out by this sitting area from 8 am to 3 pm. All to earn an additional $305.

    This day out was especially fun because I had to practice my spanish, which I am not good at. It consisted of a lot of social cues and hand gestures. Some people would speak really fast Spanish, and I had to resign saying, "no hablo espanol." They would smile and slow down and gesture at what they wanted. We were also giving out free candy left over from a friends Posada. Some kids heard it was free and filled their pockets by the handful, and some timidly reached out for one piece of candy. Overall, I had fun, but now I am tired. Merry Christmas!