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Lisle student's mission to save the sea takes her to D.C.

LISLE – Emily Mandel has been fascinated with the ocean since she was 12.

And now, as a sophomore at Lisle High School, she's working to turn her passion into her career.

Mandel was one of four Chicago-area high school students chosen to participate in the Coastal America 4th Student Summit on Ocean and Coasts, held March 9-12 in Washington, D.C.

At the summit, students from the United States, Canada and Mexico presented projects based on the National Ocean Policy, which consists of principles for maintaining the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes.

“It was such a great experience seeing other persons’ projects and to say, ‘How can I incorporate these into my own region?’” Mandel said. “It was a lot of motivation, and a lot of people who want you to succeed.”

Coastal America is a collaboration of people and resources from federal agencies, state and local governments, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector dedicated to restoring and preserving coastal ecosystems and addressing critical environmental issues, according to its website.

Mandel said her group’s presentation, which included a poster and video, introduced a new program designed to promote the marine sciences to teenagers. The program, which would be utilized at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, allows teens to shadow employees of the aquarium.

“We don’t have enough people doing marine sciences and we thought it was a good way to show what the Shedd employees do,” Mandel said. “I feel like there are so many issues that people have created for the ocean, such as pollution, and we need more people to fix the issues.”

Mandel said her group hopes to finish two test runs of their program by the end of this year.

In addition to presenting at the summit, students on the trip participated in workshops, listened to guest speakers and visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Mandel said she found out about the summit through an employee of the Shedd Aquarium. She participated in the aquarium’s High School Lake Ecology program in 2012 and applied for the High School Marine Biology program this year.

Mandel said traveling with her family to Florida during spring break every year is what has fueled her interest in the ocean. But since Mandel is not sure which career to pursue, she said the summit was an opportunity to learn more about marine biology.

“I thought it maybe would steer me in the right direction,” Mandel said. “I knew from when I was little I wanted to work with the sea, and I want to learn more now.”

Mandel is also involved in tennis, cheerleading, ecology club, key club, American Field Service and student government at Lisle High School, and volunteers at the Brookfield Zoo.

She hopes to major in marine biology and pursue her dream to travel to the Galapagos Islands to study marine life. She would also like to help preserve coral reefs.

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