Tonia Osborne

    Wednesday, August 17, 2016

    Nome and White Mountain, Alaska

    Growing up subsistence living with her Inupiaq family in White Mountain, Alaska, respecting and living off the land was always a way of life for 18-year-old Tonia Osborne. She spent summers commercial fishing with her father to gather food for the winter, and she grew to love sea animals, which ultimately sparked her dreams of becoming a deep-sea marine biologist in Alaska.

    Though Tonia has always known what she’d do with her future, arriving at the destination proved more difficult than she anticipated. When she attended the ANSEP Middle School Academy, Tonia took a step in the right direction when she built a brand new computer, which she’d use for schoolwork throughout her pre-college years.

    “I’ve been involved with ANSEP since 2011, when I attended the computer build as a middle school student – I’m pretty sure it was the first one they ever held. I used that computer for a long time and even passed it on to my little brothers,” Tonia said.

    Since she was young, Tonia has been driven to go after her dreams and was always looking for a challenge in school. When her family moved from White Mountain to Nome, though, she felt she didn’t fit in at the local high school and that this was having a negative impact on her academic growth. So, Tonia decided to spend a year in Italy her sophomore year to broaden her horizons. However, this also put her behind in school.

    “Even though I took classes there, I ended up not getting much credit for anything when I came back. I knew there was no way I could catch up,” said Tonia. “I wanted to graduate with my class so I enrolled at Mt. Edgecumbe High School, where the classes are more structured like college. I worked hard for a year, and then enrolled in the Early Honors program at Alaska Pacific University. Meanwhile, I was participating in ANSEP Acceleration Academy during the summers.”

    Not only did Tonia graduate with her class earlier this year, she now has 41 college credits under her belt and has already completed all the math requirements needed for her marine biology degree. This summer, Tonia got a taste of her future career thanks to her paid internship through ANSEP Summer Bridge. She worked as a biology aid technician with the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center in a lab alongside professional marine biologists. She assisted with the sampling of sea otter carcasses and mussels from Katmai and Kenai Fjords National Parks as well as the Prince William Sound as part of the Pacific Nearshore Project.

    “It was a really cool learning experience, and I loved seeing what it was like to be a real biologist. Plus, I had an amazing mentor who told me about all the opportunities available in marine biology,” said Tonia. “The biggest thing I learned is what scientists actually do on a daily basis. They do a lot of meticulous research projects, and there are so many different scientists for one small project – it’s crazy how much work goes into one end result!”

    This fall, Tonia will be a full-time student at the University of Alaska Southeast, where she will continue working toward her marine biology degree. With years of college-like experiences to guide her, Tonia says she’s more than ready to be a full-time college student.

    “I feel prepared for college, and I don’t feel scared. More than anything I’m ready for the heavy class loads because ANSEP prepared me for it,” Tonia said. “ANSEP really exposes you to what’s out there and all the opportunities we have. You learn from real researchers and biologists and find out what you’re really interested in. I’m excited to start college and ready to be on my own as an adult.”

    With a drive for success and passion for conserving the health of Alaska’s unique marine ecosystems, Tonia is ready to embark on the next step in her journey toward academic success and we look forward to seeing her continue to grow.