SAMOHI — Santa Monica High School juniors Sadie Saltzman and Dylan Meek became best friends over their shared love for biology. But Meek and Saltzman aren’t just scientists in the making. Saltzman plays the oboe, loves photography, and is a musical theater-enthusiast while Meek participates in athletics, foreign language programs, and music.

Which makes them exactly the type of students The Earthwatch Institute wants for its summer fellowship program.

Saltzman and Meek were two of the 50 students accepted to the Earthwatch 2014 Summer Fellowship out of more than 230 applicants from Los Angeles County. The fully funded summer fellowship aims to make students agents of change in their community and schools. The Earthwatch Institute takes motivated students and immerses them into the sciences for a 10-to-14 day program.

“We don’t look at grades,” said Elise Begin, Program Director at Earthwatch. “We want creative thinkers and motivators … not the students with the highest grades, but the most well-rounded.” In the fellowship application process, Saltzman and Meek both submitted very creative essays that really stood out, according to Begin.

Earthwatch is one of the world’s largest organizations for conducting field research in archeology, paleontology, marine life, wildlife, ecosystems, and biodiversity. Their work supports researchers worldwide, conducting over 100,000 hours of research each year. Meek and Saltzman will both embark on a 12-day mission. Saltzman will visit Maryland where she will study rising sea levels in the Chesapeake while Meek will head to Florida to study the effects of climate change on caterpillars, plants, and other animals. Both students will work in the field as well as the lab.

Saltzman, who wants to be a doctor, plans to be pre-med at Tulane University or Skidmore College. She’s been interning at her physical therapist’s office for the past year, making ice packs and working with ultrasound. Meek plans to pursue a marine biology degree at UCSD. You might find her on the beach picking up garbage; she tries to leave the beach cleaner than she found it.

“Now, more than ever, young people recognize their role in tackling today’s most pressing environmental concerns, and want to be the agents of change in their communities, schools, and workplaces,” said Begin. “The Ignite Fellowship Program empowers young adults like Dylan and Sadie to be part of the solution.”

Meek credits her experiences at Santa Monica High School, working with ‘Heal the Bay’, and growing up in Santa Monica as the catalysts for what she hopes will be her life’s work.

“The ocean has definitely played an important role in my life,” she said. “Being able to preserve the ocean and all that it offers for future generations is what I want to do and I don’t think I would have come to that conclusion without living near it.”

The Fellowship is funded by the Durfee Foundation and is in its 20th year. The Earthwatch Institute will accept applications starting August 1 for its 2015 Summer Fellowship. Interested students should check out for more information.

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