What is one good thing about litter? According to Florida Tech graduate student Nikia Rice, it’s that anybody can do something about it. Her non-profit, Mission: Clean Beaches, mantra is “Anytime, anywhere—pick it up. Everything leads to the big blue.”
Nikia has always held her love for conservation close to her heart. “I can’t remember when I didn’t want to be a marine biologist. I know it sounds cliché but I have always wanted to be involved with conservation and science in general. I have an innate passion for helping sea turtles survive—and all wildlife, for that matter,” says Nikia.
The importance of conservation became very evident to Nikia during a class trip early in her time at Florida Tech. “During my freshman year on a trip to the Florida Keys with our Marine Biology Association was the first time I explored coral reefs. I was absolutely floored by the intricacy of ecosystems, especially in the marine world. I had never experienced it before,” says Nikia
While earning her undergraduate degree in marine biology and now pursuing her master’s degree at Florida Tech, Nikia has spent long hours walking Brevard County beaches. “I have always been fascinated with sea turtles and began to realize the horrible connection sea turtles and other marine species have with debris, especially plastic ingestion and entanglement,” said Nikia.
These realizations, coupled with some downtime waiting for her research-required international turtle permit to come in, inspired Nikia to start Mission: Clean Beaches. Her goal is to make marine conservation top-of-mind by empowering the community to participate in the conversation and pick up debris wherever citizens might find it.
Nikia has dedicated her research and career to being a conservation ambassador and sea turtle champion. In addition to her research and non-profit outreach, Nikia is also the education coordinator for the Sea Turtle Preservation Society, inspiring the next generation of conservation champions.
“Brevard County is home to the largest concentration of nesting Loggerhead sea turtles in the world and nesting Greenbacks in the nation. They are not only a critical player in our ecosystem, providing nutrients and seagrass trimming, but to our eco-tourism industry as well. Preserving our resources is something that should be a top priority from an environmental, socio-economical and political standpoint,” she says.