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Profile: Caroline Connolly

I grew up near the Potomac River in Maryland and Washington, DC, and my life has always been filled with hiking, biking, and understanding the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay area. Furthermore, I have spent every summer of my life in Cape May, New Jersey, where conservation efforts and embracing the many facets of the local environment are central to the true living experience of the town. Finally, during my high school years, I have conducted multiple research projects regarding different impacts of climate change, particularly in coastal communities.

From family hiking trips along the river when I was younger, to the long runs I now take in that area when I am home, I have always had a deep appreciation for the Potomac and the natural habitat and recreational enjoyment that it provides. However, the river is also very polluted in certain areas. As I have gotten older, more and more sections of the river have been closed to swimmers, due to heavy pollution content and dangerously changing currents with continuously rising water levels. While summers and humid spring days in DC used to include people going down by the river to swim and hang out with friends, they are now only able to do so at the risk of the river. This knowledge was always in the back of my mind, and was further reinforced by an educational experience I was lucky enough to have with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation through my old school in DC. The three days I spent with the program were truly eye opening, and inspired me to continue learning about local coastal towns and how they are impacted by a continuously changing environment - particularly regarding rising water temperatures and sea levels.

Once I began high school at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, my interest in the impacts of climate change on both the environment and the quality of life of local residents was able to expand. During my sophomore year, I wrote a long-form article about the Alaskan island of Shishmaref, an already vulnerable town that is now falling into the ocean with no means of solution. The island was only a few miles in width to begin with, but after sea ice that had previously protected the land melted, the impact of the ocean waves has caused serious erosion. Similarly, my junior year, I conducted a month-long research project regarding the U.S. Fishing Industry, particularly in the Gulf of Maine and in Alaska. I assessed how the local economy and towns in that area could best be supported while utilizing methods that prioritize the health of the environment and the fish stocks. It was encouraging to find that what was best for the local residents was also what was best for the environment and marine life.

All of my experiences, both in and out of the classroom, have truly opened my eyes to the damage of climate change and how crucial it is for it to be addressed and resolved. While I am especially interested in issues such as rising sea levels and water temperatures, in addition to the intersection of climate change and quality of life, I feel lucky to have been educated on the wide variety of its impacts. To that end, I have wanted to find a means with which I can use my voice and work with others to combat such a pressing issue. That is why I joined FXB Climate Advocates - because I want to be able to make a concrete difference. I am so excited to see what this group can do!

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