Stainken joins Sanibel Sea School team
After browsing the internet in search of jobs, Shannon Stainken stumbled upon the Sanibel Sea School, later landing a position as a marine science educator at the nonprofit organization on Sept. 25.
“I had just graduated with my masters and I knew I wanted to work in marine science education. I was going through the regular avenues looking for jobs and then I was like I’m going to start looking as if I was a parent looking for marine science programs for my kid,” she said. “Then I stumbled upon Sea School and they had a job opening, so I applied.”
Stainken graduated from the University of Miami where she studied marine science and biology with a minor in chemistry as her undergraduate studies and marine conservation for her masters.
Originally born in Atlanta, Georgia, the young woman knew she wanted to pursue marine biology her whole life. When looking for top marine science programs, she found the University of Miami.
“My parents used to call me a hurricane baby because they lived in Miami the year before I was born. When Andrew hit, that’s when they left. They think it’s funny that I went back to school there,” Stainken said.
While in college, she traveled to Little Cayman Island for the summer for a tropical marine conservation internship. Stainken stayed at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute for a month.
“I learned about the natural ecosystems and the reefs there, localized issues that they had and ways to communicate science to general audiences. We also did our own short term independent research projects,” Stainken said.
She also started as an intern at Miami Seaquarium in its education department, which eventually turned into a full-time position. The intern position started off in conservation education working with very similar programs that the Sanibel Sea School offers.
So far she enjoys Sanibel.
“It’s a lot slower pace than Miami. It’s refreshing to be out of a big city. As long as I’m five minutes away from the beach, I’m pretty happy,” Stainken said.
As the marine science educator she is currently helping the Sea School staff with the day classes – whether at the flagship campus, or at Sundial Beach Resort & Spa. She said although they are in a classroom for a little while, she is mostly out in the field teaching.
In addition, she’s also doing shell walks, bird walks and beach walks with the various resort partnerships that the Sanibel Sea School has.
“I’m still in the training process a little bit, but I’m excited to get started,” Stainken said.
Since starting last month, she said she has already gained knowledge in some of the specie identification.
“It’s been really nice being here as opposed to being in Miami. It’s a sanctuary island, so it’s a little more protected. There just seems to be a lot more life and biodiversity here than I am used to seeing in Miami, so I’m excited,” Stainken said.
She said she really loves that the Sanibel Sea School is about getting children out in the environment and in the field “touching, hearing, feeling, tasting, seeing” everything they possibly can.
“I think, in my opinion, hands-on experiential learning is one of the most effective methods of teaching, or for someone to absorb information,” Stainken said. “Just in the few weeks of being here, I can see that everyone, even though their job may not be education, they are so driven and focused on a common goal of spreading a love for the ocean. That is really exciting for me. It’s really cool and exciting to be part of a team like this.”