Marina Zannino, Environmental Science M.S. Student
By Lauren Moriarty

Marina Zannino has always been passionate about aquatic biology. "My name is Marina so it kind of fits," she jokes. "Water is the source of life and since I was young, I always felt a duty to protect it." After earning her undergraduate degree from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, Marina moved to Texas in 2016. "While looking for programs to be a part of, the environmental science program here at UTSA was the most receptive and welcoming," she remembers. "I was able to speak with several professors before I applied and felt this program would be a good fit for me. Additionally, I was not tokenized. I don’t ever want to be the token black person, which has happened to me. UTSA serves a diverse group of people and not for the sake of diversity, but because I believe UTSA has a core belief of trying to prepare black and other people of color for whatever goals they may have."

Now an M.S. student at UTSA, Marina is studying environmental science with a focus on aquatic biology. "In my undergraduate career I focused a lot on marine environments so for my master’s, I wanted to gain a better understanding of freshwater ecosystems and their importance in our everyday lives," she says. She is currently researching the linkages between heron productivity and weather changes. Marina’s advisor is Dr. Jen Smith, who she would like to thank for providing support and a space to talk.

Once she graduates, Marina’s goal is to earn a Ph.D. in marine science at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. Ultimately, she plans to become a marine biologist and professor at an HBCU. "Growing up, a lot of the aquatic and marine professors I have met have been white and I want to show that is not always the case," she explains.

Marina says that her experience as a Black woman in STEM is complicated. "Imposter syndrome is unforgiving and sometimes you will be questioned on your validity," she says. "However, through the hard times I tried my best to stand my feet in the mud and remain unmoved. Advice I would give? You have a goal, go do it. Don’t let anyone or anything deter you from it. You are your ancestors’ greatest dreams. Hone that, there is power in it. Find your support group, for when you are too tired to hold up everything you can be, they’ll be there to help you again."


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