When Simone Burton sets an idea in motion, she is not easily stopped. Her drive to prove that her “unrealistic" dream of becoming a marine biologist was achievable, for example. Her determination to find the upsides of doing field experiences virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And her decision to enter a field where the challenge to influence human behavior grows more urgent by the day.
Burton, an Honors biology major with an option in marine biology, has pushed through more obstacles than she could have imagined only four years ago. Now, she is confident that she will find a powerful way to protect marine life through a career in conservation, science communication and outreach.
“Yes, I do believe I can make a difference, and that's why I chose marine biology. That’s why I came to Oregon State,” she said.
When pressed, Burton said believes that the same characteristics – passion and determination – that helped her reach other unlikely goals and excel in Oregon State’s marine biology program during a pandemic will propel her to other achievements.
As a middle schooler living in land-locked rural Utah, her dream was to become a marine scientist. That desire would not be squelched by a seventh-grade counselor who said her goal was unrealistic. After he told her to “choose something else” for her career plan, she persuaded her mother to let her attend SeaCamp San Diego, a marine biology camp, the next summer. Two years later, at age 16, she became Open Water scuba certified.
“Yes, I do believe I can make a difference, and that's why I chose marine biology. That’s why I came to Oregon State.”
Those experiences strengthened Burton's resolve to pursue marine conservation. She became even more passionate about addressing the causes and effects of global climate change that impact marine life, and she believes communication is crucial.
“Public outreach and science communication are key to influencing the next generation. That’s where everything starts so that people will choose to change their own actions and to make better consumer choices,” she said.