Estuarium hires science programs educator 

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Sophia Phillips is materializing her dream of sharing her passion for environmental science with the public. She is the new science programs educator at the North Carolina Estuarium in Washington. 


Phillips, 20, is from a rural community in Avery County, North Carolina. She graduated from high school at 16 years old, took community college classes for two years before graduating from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Bachelors of Science degree in Environmental Science. 


She, like many residents in Avery County, had little to no broadband access. She knew little about environmental science topics, because it wasn’t talked about in her area. In high school, Phillips took her first environmental science class which was offered as an elective. That was when her passion for science began to cultivate. 


Phillips shared she has always drawn to science, technology, engineering and math subjects, but environmental studies took a particular hold because a changing climate presents very real and current issues she feels need to be corrected. 


“Avery County is similarly a rural, somewhat poor area and I realized the effects of my lack of that [science] education when I started getting out on my own and started seeing things on the internet then going to college and realizing all these things are happening and I had no idea,” Phillips said. 


At the Estuarium, it is Phillips’ hope that she can impart her knowledge to younger generations and inspire them to learn how to best take care of their ecologically rich area. Also, it would prevent them from having the same frustrating experience Phillips’ had when she discovered the overwhelming number of negative and positive changes in nature that have taken place in recent decades like climate change. 


“I felt almost frustrated to realize this is happening right now. We don’t talk about this…I can recognize and realize these are big changes that are happening and soon we are going to reach a tipping point,” Phillips said. “It was frustrating to me that I didn’t know about it and so now I want everyone to know about it.” 


Phillips said working at the Estuarium has been “really great” because she has a job that “challenges” what she already knows but also has opportunities to learn insightful information from volunteers. 

Throughout the rest of summer, the Estuarium will host kids’ summer camps and has a Women in STEM program planned for a local Girl Scouts troop.


The Estuarium is a nonprofit that is supported by Partnership for the Sounds. It opened in 1998 as the first “estuarium” in the  world. It is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and is located at 223 E. Water St., Washington.