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Longtime BAMZ volunteer awarded scholarship

Royal Gazette

By Jessie Moniz Hardy
Published Sep. 16 2013 at 8:00 am

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Taylor Gorham receives a scholarship award from former Bermuda Zoological Society
President Robert Steinhoff, along with Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo Principal Curator
Ian Walker (far left) and Scholarship committee member, Ron Lucas (far right).

This year’s winner of the Steinhoff/Bermuda Zoological Society (BZS) $7,000 scholarship is no stranger to the Aquarium.

Taylor Gorham, 23, has been volunteering at the Aquarium since she was 12 years old.

Now she is about to embark on a Master’s degree in Conversation Science at Imperial College in Kensington, London, England.

“I was a camp counsellor with them for three years,” Miss Gorham said. “I couldn’t wait to be 18 years old so I could dive in the Northrock Tank.”

When she did finally reach that blessed age she spent a summer helping aquarist Norvell Wright maintain the tanks and care for the fish.

Her interest in conservation started at a young age. From six years old onward she would spend just about every Sunday afternoon snorkelling.

When she was eight years old her class studied the Amazon Rainforest.

At that time she told her mother, Laura, “in my whole life I have never been to the Amazon Rainforest”.

So her mother, former Bermuda National Gallery (BNG) Director and Interim Director of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (BUEI), arranged a special trip to the Amazon when Miss Gorham was ten years old.

They took a group of 30 people with them to experience this fascinating place.

“We did a bit of camping in the rainforest,” said Miss Gorham. “We swam with Amazon dolphins. It was an amazing experience and it changed my life.”

Miss Gorham received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from McGill University in Quebec, Canada.

She spent several summers working with Dr Thad Murdoch on the Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Analysis Monitoring (BREAM) programme and also helping with the Bermuda Turtle Project helping to assess the local sea turtle population.

“Dr Murdoch was the one who really got me interested in marine conservation in particular,” she said. “From there I ended up working with the Bermuda Turtle Project. I volunteered in Canada for another turtle conservation research group.

“I also worked in the Galapagos Islands volunteering with the National Park Service. I have tried to get as much experience in as many different venues as possible.”

After Miss Gorham finishes her Master’s degree she would like to get a job for a few years as a conservation scientist, before getting a doctoral degree.

“I will see what opportunities are there when I finish,” she said. “Ideally, I would love to come back to Bermuda to work on coral reef monitoring.”

She is very interested in looking at ways to get ordinary people to see the importance of the environment and marine world.

“We, generally, hold ourselves as separate from nature,” she said. “But we humans are part of the ecosystem. I am interested in the question of how you protect things in a way that is beneficial to people.

“A lot of people think economic growth is in opposition to environmental protection. I hope to portray environmental protection as something that people should care about. Environmental protection is an investment in our long term quality of life.

“It is not something that stands in the way of us building a prosperous future.”

She said it was a real honour to receive the BZS Steinhoff scholarship.

“Just being able to say I was a scholarship winner will have a huge benefit to my career, and it has really boosted my confidence,” she said.

The scholarship was named for former BZS President Robert Steinhoff and is for Bermudian students studying environmental sciences at accredited institutions.

Since its launch in 2009, more than $50,000 has been awarded.