Ashantee Picket standing on a pier at the Center for Marine Science
May 19, 2022

Ashantee Pickett '22 has dreamt of working with marine mammals, especially cetaceans, whales, dolphins and porpoises, since she was a little girl. Thanks to the experiences she had at UNCW and the Center for Marine Science, that dream became reality.

Pickett, who is slated to complete her degree requirements this summer, will join the Fort Fisher Aquarium staff, where she will assist the public during their time at the aquarium.

"I've never been happier at work than when I am at the aquarium," said Pickett, who will earn a bachelor's degree in marine science with a concentration in marine conservation.

Pickett took advantage of numerous applied learning opportunities during her undergraduate studies, including serving as a lab volunteer and camp counselor with MarineQuest, a lab assistant for geology professor and former CMS interim director Dr. Lynn Leonard and her involvement with the Marine Mammal Stranding Program with Dr. Ann Pabst.

Pickett also participated in a directed independent study student research opportunity, where she gained hands-on experience working with Professor Joe Pawlik and the seahorses and fish in his care. The experience led her to work under the guidance of aquarist Ron Moore on the public marine tank located in the lobby of the Center for Marine Science. She combined her conservation knowledge in research with faculty member Dr. Alyson Fleming to explore humpback whale isotopes.

"The best part of my academic career has been working at the Center for Marine Science under the guidance of the intelligent faculty and staff," Pickett said. "Gaining valuable work experience and participating in research has been super exciting.”

When Pickett thinks of how she has grown since her freshman year, she credits the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion's centers that gave her freedom to appreciate who she is and to become more aware of social issues that impact communities.

"I appreciate the directors Brooke Lambert, Edelmira Segovia and Sean Palmer and their continued work to create spaces of equity and opportunity for my fellow Seahawks," she said. "They break down barriers and glass ceilings for ethnic and racial minorities."

Pickett believes in student involvement through student organizations, community service and research opportunities. She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and was recently crowned Ms. 1908. She also participates in the North American Marine Environment Protection Association; the National Pan-Hellenic Council; and has been active with MarineQuest, first as a lab volunteer and later serving as a camp counselor for many years.

"The student involvement on campus is amazing," she said. "If you want to attend a school where you can make changes for a better community environment, this is the place to be a student leader."

-- MaryEllen Frizzell