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School trip leads to a passion for conservation

By Julie Matuszewski; photos courtesy of Brynne Casto and Chris Todd

Photo of American Academy School trip to Costa Rica

Assisting the American Academy student trip, Brynne Casto (right) traveled back to Costa Rica in fall 2021 to revisit the LAST organization and again work alongside the organization with conservation efforts.

Former American Academy – Castle Pines (AA) student Brynne Casto is now a junior at Rock Canyon High School. She has always shared a deep-rooted love for the ocean and marine life, and her first trip to Costa Rica with AA was the perfect opportunity for her to explore her passion.

As an avid scuba diver for six years, Casto feels she has a personal connection and devotion to the oceanic wildlife that comes with experiencing the underwater environment firsthand.

Casto said she felt a strong connection that has had a lasting impact from when she first visited and worked with Latin American Sea Turtles (LAST) South Pacific project on a school trip with AA.

Working with LAST, Casto saw that the project had a dual focus on sea turtles and mangrove restoration. LAST monitors current populations of sea turtles along the Osa Peninsula but also supports a mangrove reforestation nursery where volunteers plant and help restore the natural forests.

The project gave Casto a genuine firsthand experience working with animals and field research. According to Casto, gathering propagates and planting plots of mangrove trees with her own hands was far more educational and impactful than what she had been taught in school. It was this first trip to Costa Rica that inspired Casto to continue conservation efforts on her own.

Photo of Brynne Casto in May 2019 planting mangrove saplings in the Osa Peninsula Costa Rica

Brynne Casto in May 2019 planting mangrove saplings in the Osa Peninsula Costa Rica at the Latin American Sea Turtle South Pacific project.

Casto created and entered a 50-second video on planet stewardship and the preservation of natural resources for the annual EarthX Planet911 Youth Film Challenge. Her video discussed the deforestation of mangrove forests in the Osa Peninsula and the impacts this could have on the ecosystem as mangrove forests function as feeding and breeding grounds for organisms like sea turtles. The mangrove forests also absorb massive amounts of carbon emissions and prevent erosion, reducing the impacts of hurricanes and climate change.

Casto’s video won the LAST organization a $250 impact grant to continue the conservation work already underway. In addition, Casto completed a summer internship with EarthX, the organization responsible for the Youth Film Fellowship, along with a group of 17 teenagers from 13 countries that were each mentored to create a film or TED-style talk about an environmental issue of their choice.

This fall, Casto had the opportunity with AA to travel back to the Osa Peninsula as a volunteer at LAST to see firsthand the impacts of the winning grant. Sharing her knowledge and using her past experiences with the organization, Casto helped guide this year’s students through each experience.

Working with marine life and conservation is absolutely Casto’s passion. No matter what path she chooses to follow in school, she will always honor her love for this field. Casto hopes one day she will design and conduct research like the work being done at the LAST organization in the fields of biology and potentially biotechnology.



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