Jared Leingang, Contributing writer
When not studying intensely to maintain her high GPA, student Alliey Bukikosa is pursuing her dream to become a marine biologist.
Bukikosa is taking classes to earn her associate degree before she transfers to Western Washington University to pursue a degree in environmental science and marine biology.
When she first thought of her dream career, she longed to be an American Sign Language interpreter. In her senior year of high school, she changed this to marine biology. She said she was inspired by her aunt.
“My aunt inspires me because she works with the Environmental Protection Agency in Guam,” Bukikosa said. “Plus, I really want to swim with dolphins and sharks; it’s on my bucket list. I like water and doing things in it. It’s a job I hopefully will enjoy.”
Once Bukikosa earns her bachelor’s degree, she plans to move to Guam and get an internship to work with her aunt at the EPA, which protects human health and the environment.
She’s currently taking classes such as oceanography to help set herself up for the future. In class, she learns about marine environments and the diversity of life in the ocean – all skills imperative for a marine biologist to know. When Bukikosa isn’t in the classroom, she can be found either at the zoo looking at marine life or fishing.
“I’m at the zoo anytime I can go,” Bukikosa said. “I try to go either once a weekend or whenever it’s nice out.”
Her favorite aquatic animal is either the phytoplankton or shrimp. She’s especially interested in the phytoplankton because of its ability to be a food source for all the other organisms yet maintain a steady population. Shrimp is her favorite for another reason.
“Have you seen the movie Finding Nemo? The first time I watched the movie, I loved the shrimp in the fish aquarium in the dentist’s office – the one with the French accent,” Bukikosa said. “I know shrimp aren’t actually like that, but back when I was a kid, that was one of the first things that got me interested in aquatic life.”
Bukikosa also loves to fish. Her favorite spot is in Fox Island because when the weather is nice and it creates a calming environment. She especially likes the salmon and the challenge that comes with catching them. She fishes unconventionally, though.
When she lands one, she reels it in, then records the breed and throws it back. She records the fish to keep track of how many she catches, but rarely does she keep it. One time at Fox Island, she caught nine salmon in two and a half hours of work and kept a total of zero.
Her love of fishing influenced her appreciation for marine biology. When she was deciding her major, the connection to her aunt was apparent but she didn’t know if she’d enjoy the career. She thought of how she loves to fish and how the job as a marine biologist would be exciting but also that the job wouldn’t be as easy as it’d seem.
For Bukikosa’s daily routine, she wakes up at the crack of dawn and heads to campus for her first class at 8 a.m. She also has class at 11 a.m. and on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. She finds time to study to maintain a 3.95 GPA.
After class, Bukikosa works at the Parametric Testing Center where she proctors tests. This is a job for the moment as she works toward becoming a marine biologist.
“There’s a lot to do,” Bukikosa said. “You have to work for it, actually excel in your classes and have a good work ethic. You can’t just fly by. You have to be excellent in your studies.”
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