Living the Dream: Cancer Survivor to Teen Conservation Leader
By Tessa Terrill, Public Relations Intern
How often in life do things come full circle?
Seamus Morrison experienced a full-circle moment this summer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
He first came to the Aquarium in 2010 through the Make-A-Wish Foundation as an 11-year old with a life-threatening brain cancer – and a dream of becoming a marine biologist. He went behind the scenes to feed the cuttlefishes, spent a morning talking to scientists with our partners at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), and an afternoon with dolphins and seals at Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz. He even took two scuba dives in our Great Tide Pool.
“It was really fun at the time, and I loved the experience,” he says.” But now it’s just so much more. I look back on it and I just think it was one of the best experiences of my life.”
Cancer-free and riding the wave
Four years later, cancer-free and still riding the marine biology wave, he and his parents, James and Riad Morrison, packed their bags and made the trip from Ojai in southern California to spend the summer in Monterey so Seamus could follow his dream – as a Teen Conservation Leader (TCL) at the Aquarium.
George Matsumoto, Senior Research and Education Specialist at MBARI and his MBARI guide four years ago, is overjoyed that Seamus came back as a teen leader, and said Seamus told him how much he was growing through his participation in the program.
When he was 10, Seamus was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor called medulloblastoma. That didn’t dim his passion for diving headfirst into marine biology, a passion that was present since he was very young.
Seamus’s dad James, who has a successful career as an actor with roles in shows like “24” and “Revenge”, said that Seamus’s Halloween costumes have always been ocean-ified.
One year, he was a scuba diver and even had a tank made of a cereal box that he would open with the pull of a cord to collect trick-or-treat candy!
For six weeks this summer, now 15-year-old Seamus took his passion and spread it among Aquarium guests as he shared stories about the range of sea life exhibited throughout the aquarium – including as a narrator for Kelp Forest feeding shows.
When Seamus was getting ready to narrate the feeding one day, he was surprised to learn that the diver was the one who took him into the Great Tide Pool through Underwater Explorers four years ago.
'An amazing journey'
“That (Make-A-Wish) experience and his continued relationship with the Aquarium have further inspired him toward the dream of one day becoming a real marine biologist,” says his mother, Riad. “It’s been and continues to be an amazing journey.”
Seamus said he loves the Monterey Bay Aquarium because there’s “more stuff” here than at any other aquarium he’s visited.
He’s already taking action to build on his summer experience and help inspire ocean conservation. He’s emailed his teachers about a plan to create a conservation lab when he returns to school. He said his teachers are on board and he’ll talk to them this fall about how to make it a reality.
(Photos by Randy Tunnell)
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