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        ACS University of Hawaii-Hilo educating their campus community with a killer whale skull replica

Cetaceans enchant us with their grace, intelligence, and beauty, and have an exceptional ability to inspire people and serve as ambassadors for marine conservation. And yet these magnificent creatures face more threats today than ever before. Every student should consider joining a professional society-a society that represents its member and works for the good of their chosen profession. One of the benefits of joining the ACS Student Coalition is the ability to network and collaborate with your peers (future colleagues) and professionals in different disciplines, backgrounds, and institutions to address the challenges that whales, dolphins, and porpoises face in today’s complex world.

Leading your own ACS student group can be very rewarding and fun. ACS students host world famous guest speakers, screen films, create campaigns, organize fundraisers, host social events such as marine themed parties, educate their community and campus, network with other student groups, and most importantly, they help make the world a better place for both cetaceans and humans! 

the members at the end of year banquet
 ACS University of Hawaii-Manoa students at the end of the year banquet


How can the ACSSC help me start my own group?

The ACS Student Coalition is happy to answer your questions, give you more information, and assist you from the start with organizing your peers. It may seem daunting, but we are here to help you with every step. You will find yourself surprised at how many other people are in your community that also want to put their passion into action once you reach out. For example, ACS-Indiana University is the first group of the student coalition, the founder was able to connect with like-minded peers in Indiana, and you can too! We will provide you with tips on recruitment, campaigns, and offer resources and material we have created for our campaigns. We will also provide advice regarding fundraising and activities and dealing with your university. ACS can provide travel grants for student leaders to attend biennial ACS conference to come together and share ideas and meet each other. 



ACS student leaders at the 2018 International American Cetacean Society conference in Newport, CA


What is expected of me as a leader?

It can be very rewarding to have a leadership position for a cause you care about. Leading is a learning process, a very important one that brings forth many useful skills for future careers. We understand that students are quite busy with maintaining grade point averages, part-time jobs, internships, etc., so we recommend ACS student leaders take on only as much as they can. Each regional student group can pursue the specific campaigns they feel passionate about or the ones that are more geographically relevant for their community. This can be very effective as some issues are better tackled when the group is conveniently located nearby to take action. Some groups meet weekly or every other week, whichever is most convenient for each group.


Get in touch with us!

If you are a student and you are passionate about cetaceans and marine conservation, we want to hear from you! Reach out to Sabena Siddiqui, the ACS Student Chair at  [email protected]


ACS Student Leader Alumni

Where are they now?


Michaela Setzer

PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

"As an undergraduate student, my experience with the ACS student coalition served as an invaluable aspect of my STEM education, and contributed to my success in obtaining a graduate student position with the University of Hawaii's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. The ACSSC allowed me multiple opportunities to expand upon and develop skills in organization, time-management, delegation, team-work, and science communication both on and off campus via beach cleanups, organized campus sustainability events, and group events centered around invited speakers, documentaries, or other ocean conservation themes. The ACS provided funding for me to attend my first scientific conference, broadening my understanding of what a career in science might entail and allowing me the opportunity to speak alongside other ACSSC officers. Personally, my time with the ACSSC was most benefited from interactions with my peers and mentors, both on campus and from the broader ACS community, who fostered confidence in my abilities and reminded me of the importance in acknowledging my own successes."


Shelby Kasberger 

ACS Board Member and Conservation Chair

"Being a part of the ACS student group at TAMU-CC was the origin of my passion for advocating for the health of this planet. I was able to feel like I was part of something bigger, and yet at the same time, make differences in my own small community. I took on a leadership role with my ACS student group early on, and I am so glad I did. Being involved with ACS was the highlight of my undergraduate years! I learned so much, from facts about cetaceans in the wild, to reading up on research, to more personal lessons like how to lead discussions, become a leader, and inspire others with my own love of cetaceans."


Angel Valdez

MS candidate at the University of Hawaii Molecular Biosciences and Engineering Program

 "Being an ACS Student Leader allowed me to grow, both professionally and personally. I was able to bond with others that also feel so strongly about marine conservation. Joining this community in undergrad helped to shape my role in the science community, and showed me how valuable outreach and effective science communication are to any STEM field. Having the opportunity to host outreach events both on and off-campus as well as beach clean-ups, gave me the chance to connect with the community and see how ACS benefits not only the environment but the community as well. This realization has helped me to incorporate more outreach opportunities into my research and helped to bring awareness to all aspects of marine conservation. I wouldn't be in the position I am today without ACSSC and the friends that I have made through it."


Cara Gallagher

PhD candidate at Aarhus University Bioscience Program

"During my undergraduate degree I desperately wanted to get involved with marine conservation but was unsure how to participate. While googling around I came across the SF Bay ACS chapter which hosted various presentations and events not far from where I lived. The then chapter president Lynette Koftinow and ACS Student Chair Sabena Siddiqui supported me in the creation of a branch of the ACS student chapter at my university, CSU East Bay. For several years I was able to lead this student branch and help create a space on our campus to get together and learn about conservation issues, organize activities like beach cleanups, and develop important professional skills like reading scientific papers and practicing public presentations. Being an ACS student leader was an incredibly rewarding experience and I felt enormously supported by the ACS community. Through my involvement with ACSSC I gained countless important skills that I still benefit from today and made many important friendships and wonderful connections, including meeting my MSc supervisor, the late Dr. Jonathan Stern."


Erin Adams 

Event Support & Marketing Independent Contractor for Whale Trust

"Involvement in the ACS Student Coalition during my college career allowed me to make valuable connections, expand my knowledge in the field of marine mammal science, and provided me with treasured experiences that helped me to achieve my accomplishments today. From attending conferences to planning meetings to community networking, my time with the ACSSC-TAMUCC was a major part of my college experience, and I continue attending (and LOVING!) ACS conferences to this day! I am forever grateful for the opportunities, friendships, and experiences that ACS has provided me with in both my personal life and professional career."



Sabena Siddiqui

ACS Board Member and Student Chair, MS University of Hawaii at Hilo Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences Program



Brijonnay Madrigal

Nancy Foster Fellow, PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii Marine Mammal Research Program 

Learn more about her research and career journey here!


Kara Henderlight

ACS Advocacy Chair, MS in Environmental Conservation from Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison


Shelby Marhoefer 

Msc. James Cook University