The foundation would like to announce the 2022 scholarship winner, Kelli O’Donnell. Again, we received many wonderful applications and it is always tough to choose just one. Kelli is a repeat applicant and continues to prove her passion in using aviation to benefit others. We know she will use these funds to fulfill her lifelong goals to further her aviation career. Here is a bio that Kelli shared with us to help everyone get to know our 2022 scholarship recipient a little better:
Did you know that it is not just humans that need aid, but animals as well? National Humanitarian Medals have been awarded to those who have rescued endangered species while inspiring people to become interested in conservation. The balance of animal species in our environment and their needed conservation are all tied to the furthering of human welfare and preserving life on earth for future generations. In 2019, Kelli joined this humanitarian effort to educate about conservation and how it can benefit protected species and humans alike by becoming a volunteer for Turtles Fly Too. Turtles Fly Too’s mission is to improve the survival rate of endangered species by engaging general aviation pilots to provide emergency air transport for affected species and critical response teams. As a marine biologist for NOAA and a pilot, Kelli has had the unique perspective to document best practices for both endangered species and the pilots transporting them. Since becoming a volunteer, she has organized a transport pilot thank you fly-in in Florida, worked with organizing and participating in transport flights within the United States and Internationally, and recently completed a Protocol document for pilots transporting sea turtles, which now serves as guidance for Turtles Fly Too pilots. She was also able to secure multiple grants to produce educational and outreach conservation signage about sea turtle cold stuns that are displayed in six sea turtle rehabilitation facilities and recently began gathering information for Turtles Fly Too to obtain its first donated aircraft for dedicated missions and to help spread the word about Turtles Fly Too’s conservation work. Kelli continues to solicit pilot volunteers and share these unique flying opportunities with members of The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots. Her goal is to start a scientific seaplane business where she can continue donating time to Turtles Fly Too while also expanding on the conservation effort for multiple marine species.
“With my future business, my goal is to provide rapid response to coral reefs affected by natural disasters and physical damage by transporting scientific samples and research teams as needed to/from these areas. I want to expand upon my part conserving the environment that generates half of the Earth’s oxygen, absorbs nearly 1/3 of the carbon dioxide generated from burning fossil fuels, and produces 17% of all globally consumed protein.”