STONY BROOK, N.Y. — From a young age, Jessica Salmon attended family reunions in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And a passion for marine biology was born.
“I just fell in love with the water,” Salmon said. “And I know it sounds cliché, but that was the time my family was together. So it was always a memorable place to be. And then, as I grew older, realizing how we’re affecting the environment with all of the trash on the beach, really opened my eyes. I was like, ‘OK, how can I most make a positive impact?'”
Now, in addition to being a member of the Stony Brook swim team, Salmon is majoring in marine vertebrate biology with a minor in coastal environmental studies. She also is spearheading environmental initiatives across the campus.
Salmon, a junior from upstate Rexford, N.Y., is the environmental coordinator for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, commonly known as SAAC.
In that role, she is planning a socially distanced beach cleanup with Stony Brook student-athlete volunteers. She also collects plastic wrappers from teams and brings the articles to the university’s student-run marine science club to recycle. That group also is involved with beach cleanups as well as aquarium visits and seal tours in Southampton.
Salmon’s on-campus involvement does not end there. She is a member of the university’s dining halls sustainability committee — performing functions such as educating students that they can bring their own silverware to avoid using disposable forks.
Salmon ultimately hopes to conduct her own research in the marine biology field.
She is particularly looking forward to this semester because on Tuesdays and Thursdays she will spend most of the day in Southampton studying in a laboratory aboard a School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences research vessel. Her classes this semester include physical oceanography and experimental marine biology.
As for swimming at Stony Brook, Salmon focuses on the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke as well as the 200 individual medley. She was a member of the America East honor roll last academic year. Her most impressive performance came as a freshman, at the 2019 America East Championships.
After missing finishing in the top eight by one spot in the preliminary round, which would have qualified her for the “A” final in the 100 breaststroke, she resolved to match the best swimmers’ times anyway in the consolation heat. And she did just that, finishing in 1:05.67 to win her “B” heat. Her time would have placed her on par with several of the “A” final swimmers.
“I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to finish in 1:05.'” Salmon said. “I completely believed it. And that night I did 1:05. So I was very proud of myself getting a personal best by two seconds.”
Of course, having the surname Salmon and having an aquatic lifestyle lends itself to good-natured ribbing.
“You have no idea,” she said. “In club swim, we would have parents time us. The parents would always look at the heat sheet and go, ‘Huh, Salmon, that’s funny.'”