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The Perennial

Beneath the Oceans: Makena Matula’s Love for Marine Biology

Mei Miyahara

   Driven by a childhood love for the sea and a desire to protect our oceans, Pinewood senior Makena Matula is making waves in marine biology and plans on continuing their passion in college at the University of Southern California.

   Matula’s deep-rooted passion for the ocean dates back to their childhood, when their grandparents would take them tidepooling along the coastlines.

   “I remember there was a ‘dress as your future career’ day in first grade, and I dressed like a marine biologist,” Matula said. 

   This childhood curiosity ignited a passion that has only grown over the years and has led Matula to founding Pinewood’s Ocean Ambassadors Club, which is dedicated to marine conservation through activities such as beach cleanups, whale watching and scuba diving. 

   Outside of school, Matula explores their love for marine biology by volunteering at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the California Academy of Sciences, enrolling in community college courses and taking a course to become a certified naturalist. 

   In the future, Matula plans on conducting research with various professors and participating in more conservation efforts. This summer, Matula plans on volunteering at the Sunflower Star Laboratory, a laboratory in Monterey Bay dedicated to the conservation of the sunflower star after its near-extinction a few years ago. 

   However, Matula’s marine biology journey has not always been smooth sailing. 

   “The biggest challenge for me was in my head,” Matula said. “Like if I reach out to this person, they won’t want to talk to me cause I’m young,. . . but for the most part, [people] in biology and marine biology are always willing to help you.” 

   Matula has also faced discouragement when discussing the monetary aspects of marine biologists.

   “[Marine biologists] don’t get paid a lot, so it’s been kind of discouraging,” Matula said. “But I love it so much that to me that does not matter.” 

   Part of why Matula loves marine biology so much is because of the never-ending knowledge there is to know.

   “Just the sheer diversity, variety, wackiness and constant discovery of the ocean really pulls me in,” Matula said. “It’s really cool to me just how much we don’t know.”

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