Claire Binfield, one of our marine husbandry team members from SeaQuest Las Vegas, was awarded the 2019 Scholars Helping Collars scholarship for dedication to animal welfare and community service.

With a deep admiration and love for marine life, we are very inspired by her self-driven efforts at making a positive change in the lives of animals around the world.  From her Girl Scout days spent observing and studying sea turtles in Costa Rica and Panama to her experience with raising a Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy, Claire’s selflessness and eagerness for saving our oceans and its wildlife will continue throughout her college career and beyond as she fulfills her career goal to work in marine mammal rescue.

“Humans are harming the oceans and marine life. The oceans are key to maintaining balance on Earth and humans are quickly destroying many key features, such as coral reefs, crucial to maintaining this balance.  I plan to work to save our precious oceans and in sea rescue, helping marine animals that are hurt, caught in nets and oil spills, or stranded.”

Claire has always been intrigued by the oceans and marine life, a passion that has only become stronger with time.  She worked at SeaQuest Las Vegas as a volunteer intern for a year before being hired onto the marine team last June.  As part of the SeaQuest team, she loves working with and learning about all the fish and aquatic animals we have at the aquarium.  Her time at SeaQuest has significantly helped her in being accepted to college in the Marine program as well as multiple scholarship offers, including the Scholars Helping Collars award.

Because of her passion, she focused her Girl Scout travels around service work related to marine animals.  In 2014, Claire self-funded a 2-week Girl Scout Destination trip to Costa Rica and Panama to work with researchers on sea turtle preservation, during which she participated in nightly beach patrols to protect sea turtles while they laid eggs, cataloged nests, evaluated unhatched eggs, and helped release 100 hatchling sea turtles to the ocean. While in Panama, she even participated in a community service event for a local village.

Claire traveled on another Girl Scout Destination in 2015 to Texas for a 10-day Marine Science camp and participated in a community service project where they built and installed recycle containers at a local fishing pier for monofilament fishing line. Improperly discarded fishing line harms animals such as fish, sea turtles, aquatic birds, and dolphins. These animals can become entangled in or swallow the fishing line and hooks leading to serious injury or even death. Providing the recycle containers allows fishermen to responsibly dispose of their used lines and hooks keeping sea animals safe and our oceans clean.

Claire’s passion for animals and service to others also led her to becoming a volunteer puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GBD), a nonprofit providing free guide dogs to the visually impaired.  Raisers care for puppies 24/7 from 2-17 months of age, socializing and teaching obedience. Raising guide dogs opened Claire’s eyes to how service dogs change people’s life and their daily struggles, such as fake service dog encounters, which has become an increasingly serious problem.

“People buy ‘service dog’ vests online then others see these dogs misbehave in public, giving a bad name to real, properly trained service dogs. Businesses are becoming reluctant to allow real service dogs, significantly affecting people who depend on them. Many guide dogs are attacked by fake service dogs often resulting in forced retirement, severely limiting the visually impaired person’s life. Guide dogs provide increased mobility and independence for the visually impaired.”

Seeing other’s carelessness in taking independence from the visually impaired, Claire wanted to help and created a social media awareness campaign, “Octave’s Journey”, reaching 1,400 people across 15 countries, arranged TV and newspaper interviews, as well as providing schools and businesses with information about properly trained service dogs and ADA accessibility rights.  With her efforts and example set by her first GBD puppy, Octave, an increasing number of schools in her district are allowing GBD puppies in training on their campuses.   Once she has completed training her second GBD puppy, Claire will have dedicated 3 years and over 8,000 service hours to the visually impaired.

Having met and learned about amazing people going against the odds and doing things never expected of the visually impaired, Claire is inspired to never give up on her dreams, that anything is possible, and to no longer take what she has for granted. Octave’s Journey has helped Claire voice problems to the community, empowering her to make a difference, stand up for what she believes in, and go out of her comfort zone to help others.

While working part-time at SeaQuest, traveling for national games as a dedicated student-athlete, and volunteering as a GBD puppy raiser, Claire maintains a high GPA with AP honors classes.  Claire is excited to start the next stage of her life, accepting an offer to play volleyball for Mitchell College in the Fall of 2019 and will be majoring in Marine Biology.

“Attending Mitchell College will provide me with a career path to marine animal rescue through my coursework; research and dive opportunities with Dr. Ramsay, the Marine Biology Department head; and internship opportunities at Mystic Aquarium on their sea rescue team. My long-term goal is to complete a master’s degree in Marine Mammal Science at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.”

We are very proud of Claire and are so thankful that she decided to include SeaQuest as a part of her journey!

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