Monday, August 1, 2022
By Jennifer Keefe
It’s hard to know just where to start to tell you about Marie Trone. Perhaps the most relatable place to dive in is that this professor of biology is a veteran of the United States Marine Corp.
After that, her story is filled with dolphins, elephants, dogs and even skunks.
Before beginning her teaching career at Valencia College in 2011, Marie trained dolphins and other marine animals professionally, including a few years working as a trainer in the Florida Keys, New York and Mexico.
There’s more to that part of the story.
“I drove my Ford Escort to Mexico from Ohio in the mid-1990s, the first time I worked there. I drove that same car back to Mexico to work with dolphins in the Cancun area a second time in 2002. Back then, there were no cell phones, and it was quite an adventure for me,” she explains.
If this isn’t exciting enough, Marie also cared for Asian elephants for Busch Gardens for two years.
Marie’s drive to pursue a career in teaching marine biology came while she was doing, well, a lot of driving with a very notable companion.
“I drove semi-trucks across the lower 48 states with my pet skunk, Highway, for a couple of years after I returned from Mexico the first time. During this interlude, some research ideas developed in my mind, and I knew I had to go graduate school to earn credentials so I could pursue these research ideas. I returned to Mexico to complete my dissertation,” she explains, noting that Highway was actually her first of two pet skunks (they only live about seven years).
Marie’s road to teaching started with earning a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in experimental and comparative psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi. She also earned a master’s in biology from Andrews University in Michigan and a bachelor’s in biology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
In summer 2016, she founded a research laboratory, which is located about 80 km down-river from Iquitos, Peru.
“I investigate the sounds produced by the Amazon River dolphins. I use this information to glean information regarding their ecology and behavior. These dolphins are pink and incredibly unique among the dolphin species,” she explains.
While she’s still learning to understand dolphins, Marie already speaks fluent Spanish.
But she doesn’t own a television, a fact she declares is “by choice.”
Instead, Marie prefers to spend her time “playing with my research data and engaging in dolphin research.”
When she’s not doing that, Marie is reading or training dogs. She’s even fostered dogs for Sniffing Snouts Pit Bull Rescue.
Her dog, Napo, also enjoys a lot of her favorite outdoor activities. You can find them out hiking, exploring caves, rappelling into slot canyons or jogging. Marie also enjoys biking and scuba diving, but she’s quick to point out that Napo stays home those days. In addition to the outdoors, she enjoys reading.
Marie is making some positive changes at the College. She was instrumental in creating the Introduction to Marine Biology class at Valencia, a class she brought with her from her time teaching at the College of the Florida Keys.
She also helped turn the Introduction to Environmental Science class into a study abroad experience. She’s taken two groups of students to the Peruvian Amazon and highlands and is already planning the next student trip. In fact, Marie loves taking her students on field trips all over Florida to help augment their in-class learning.
She’s also a mentor for Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) scholars.
Dean of Science Anitza San Miguel says Marie brings life to her team.
“Marie is a rock star. She is passionate about science and teaching students. It is a pleasure to work with her and see her grow through the years as an educator. She brings a wealth of knowledge to our team,” Anitza shares.
Marie loves that Valencia has big school resources but a small school atmosphere where she can really get to know her students.
“I am able to find ways to connect with students, helping them to not only succeed, but even thrive, in STEM courses,” she says.
She was also really proud of how quickly the College worked to get students laptops when classes went online in the spring 2020.
“Teaching through the COVID pandemic made me a better instructor. It caused me to be more aware and offer understanding and grace for the variety of students’ personal situations,” Marie explains.
Under her microscope, Marie sees Valencia as a place that really helps students.
“Valencia is a bridge to life improvement, being more affordable and less intimidating than large universities such as UCF. I am proud to be a member of the Valencia team,” she says.
Valencia is a place that has helped Marie to grow, too. She’s been encouraged to explore the use of open-source course materials as well as her own professional development.
She’s even been approached by the Conservación de la Naturaleza Amazónica del Perú (which translates to Conservation of the Amazon Nature of Peru) to lead workshops for teachers at about 50 Peruvian Amazon schools, which are a part of the small, subsistence-living communities along the Amazon River and its tributaries. These are mostly one-room school houses for all ages with no electricity, nor running water. She has the building blocks laid out for that project, but she hopes her Valencia connections and experience can help her bring it to life.
Fun fact: Marie also tinkers with photography. If you’re ever on the second floor of Osceola Campus’ Building 2, check out the photo of Marie’s dogs Julius and Luna jumping over a log and a photo she took of her partner, David, standing on an arch in Utah holding the sun in his hands. Also in Building 4, you’ll find several of her photos displayed: a dolphin from the Everglades, a heron catching a fish action shot, an alligator, a butterfly and several of students.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.