It all started December 9th, 2003. What’s that you may ask? That is the day, I, Brooke Cendejas, was inaugurated into this world. Most kids are unsure of what they want to be when they grow up and others are not. In kindergarten, it clicked. I knew what I wanted to be. Just like every other child I went to school. School’s a necessity if you want to get anywhere in life. Most children in kindergarten or first grade want to be princesses or superheroes. I would say I was the odd one out; I wanted to be a marine biologist. Most kids don’t even know what that means.
So, what is a marine biologist? At that age, I thought it was just a person who worked at SeaWorld. Although marine biologists can work there, most of them work other places such as laboratories or coastal areas. After some research, I learned that marine biologists don’t just play with animals all day. Marine biologists study ocean life in and out. In second grade, I had a limited vocabulary.I thought the closest thing to being a marine biologist was a “fish scientist”. After discovering this profession wasn’t all fun and games I still was determined to become a marine biologist.
What started my interest in marine biology? The summer before kindergarten my family took a trip to California where we went to SeaWorld. I adored it. Every attraction was exciting and never a dull moment occurred. At first I was a little grossed out by the starfish, but after some pressure I touched one. It was so shocking to see these creatures move underwater, to actually hold them was breathtaking. I could feel this living, breathing, aquatic animal. I could sense the starfish’s spiny skin. It was an impactful experience. My view of marine biology expanded upon. What especially caught my attention were the seals. I perceived seals as “water dogs”. Seals act very much like dogs, as they do tricks, you can pet them, and they play like dogs. Another animal that I liked was Shamu, the killer whale. What is a killer whale doing in a family-friendly aquarium? This whale is a “show whale”. Shamu is trained for shows at Seaworld. I had the chance to see Shamu’s show and I was blown away and shocked how smart these sea creatures could be.
In middle school, I attended Lowell Scott for sixth grade and Rolling Hills Public Charter School for seventh and the eighth grade. I focused a lot on science. Since I still was committed to being a marine biologist, I figured the most I could do at that age was learn as much as I can about science. In high school, I attended Renaissance High School. I took Biology, Advanced Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Precalculus. These classes would further help me in the science of marine biology. Every summer, I took classes at College of Western Idaho so I would receive my Master’s Degree when I graduated from senior year. When I had time, I would volunteer at local aquariums and research more about marine animals. I attended Washington State University so I could receive my Associate Degree. After attending Washington State University, I transferred to the University of Oregon to receive my Bachelor’s and Doctorate Degree. I major in marine biology at the Oregon Institution on Marine Biology. This was a rigorous major. I had the chance to intern and take biology courses. I then take the veterinary preparation courses and shift into UC Davis in California to get my veterinary degree.
My first job was at Monterey Bay Aquarium. I started as the Sea Otter Aquarist. This may sound all fun and games but over half of it is cleaning. I was in charge of taking care of all the sea otters displayed to the public. I prepped the food, cleaned the exhibits, and taught the public. The Director of Veterinary Services job had an opening, with my veterinary degree I got the job. I had been wanting this job ever since I worked as a Sea Otter aquarist. As the director, I had the chance to work with all different animals from turtles to cephalopods. I saved many animals and learned more about myself and what I actually wanted to do as I grew older. After about three years of working as the Director of Veterinary Services, I had to move on to something bigger and more impactful.
I moved onto the Marine Mammal Rescue Center (MMRC). The MMRC is the largest facility of its type. It is a marine animal hospital and they also rescue and rehabilitate animals. I became the Hospital Director and was dedicated to treating injured animals and returning them to sea. I managed the Monk Seals and worked with volunteers closely. I invested in representing the Marine Mammal Rescue Center and providing the lead role in veterinary services. I traveled between Kona, Hawaii and Sausalito, California. Having a flexible schedule really helped with traveling. Travelling didn’t just include planes, it also meant traveling in small boats or small aircraft. Communication is key to this job. Being able to communicate with your peers might be hard but if you don’t you could be risking your job.
A few years later, I still work at MMRC but things are a little different. Instead of being the Hospital Director full time, I became a Marine Veterinarian. This job was very similar to Hospital Director except I work with animals all the time now. This job allowed me more time to research animals and help in the way I wanted to. At this point in my life, I felt accomplished, I was a real life superhero for animals.
At age 60 I retired. I needed a break. I felt good about my career and I could still take on small jobs. I spent the rest of my life traveling to different coasts to see different marine life. One remarkable travel was in Antarctica, I saw penguins. Never in my life had I seen cage free penguins out in the wild. These clumsy creatures were interesting but weren’t very smart. As penguins would walk right up to the polar bears but would then get chased into the water. Although I was not up close to the polar bears would see me but I could watch their huge paws crash into the water making huge splashes of ice break apart. When I was too old to travel, I settled down to move back to Idaho. I owned a small cabin where I could spot the lake with the snow covered trees in the winter.
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