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On the Water, On a Mission    

April 4, 2018


Ali Kontominas verifying a fish meets minimum length requirements.

By Patrick Temperilli, Academic Affairs

Ali Kontominas’s parents used to bury the wheels of her walker in the sand and put a rod in her hands.  Growing up in Anahuac, Texas, living on the water and fishing most evenings have served to shape Kontominas into a passionate protector of wildlife.

Always a standout student, Kontominas did a career-based project when she was in middle school.  “We took a bunch of quizzes and surveys to see what our personalities were suited for,” said Kontominas, “and I was pegged to go into public service or conservation. I’ve wanted to be a Texas game warden ever since.”

Texas A&M University at Galveston, being close to both home and the Gulf of Mexico, seemed like a natural fit for the valedictorian of her graduating high school class.  The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department requires game wardens to have a four-year degree, but for Kontominas to be able to make her dream a reality she would need some financial help.

“I started looking at Houston-based scholarships,” said Kontominas, “and I saw the Terry Foundation.  They seemed like a really good place.”  Citing her leadership in clubs and sports, her strong academic record, and her dedication to public service, Kontominas became a Terry Scholar.

In January of 2017, Kontominas saw that the TPWD was hiring interns. She called the contact number, but was informed she had missed the cutoff for the Galveston area and that she’d have better luck after her sophomore year.

Not content to wait, she pressed the TPWD contact, who suggested she contact wardens in surrounding districts to see if they would be willing to bring a volunteer on ride-alongs.  “I made out a list of all the local wardens and started calling every single one,” explained Kontominas.

While most wardens were simply too busy to teach a wide-eyed sophomore, she did get a couple of bites.

Kontominas’s first ride-along was with Galveston County Game Warden Jennifer Weaver, where they did multiple oyster boat inspections.  “I got to jump from the TPWD boat onto oyster boats,” said Kontominas.

“Oyster boats stink, by the way.  But I was fine, I was in it, and that’s when I realized that this was 100% exactly what I wanted to do.”

Having been on seven ride-alongs since she first went into the field, Kontominas has worked an alligator poaching case and an operation that seized illegally caught shrimp, where an individual had sewn up his Turtle Exclusion Device in order to get a bigger haul. 

“There’s so much more to the job than writing tickets for fishing licenses,” Kontominas laughed.

Originally a marine biology major, Kontominas is now settled in the Maritime Administration Department.  “I’m learning how to be a better leader,” she said, “the human element, the ethics, the economics. I’m learning a lot.”

A junior now, Kontominas has some big ambitions. She’ll get her maritime administration degree with an economics minor in May 2019.  She hopes to be a paid intern at TPWD by then, which will help her in the highly competitive game warden application process.  After serving for many years as a warden she hopes to rise through the ranks and become a colonel, the highest rank available for Texas game wardens.

With only little over a year left at TAMUG, Kontominas plans to make the most of it. “I’ve really enjoyed it here,” she said.  “I like the small campus, it’s a totally different feel compared to my friends’ experiences.  Actually getting to know your professors makes a huge difference.”

As for her favorite aspect of campus, she doesn’t hesitate: “Definitely the pier.”

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Media contact:
Patrick Temperilli, Academic Affairs
temperilli@tamug.edu  409-740-4783


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Texas A&M University at Galveston is an ocean-oriented branch campus of Texas A&M University which educates nearly 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students in a unique blend of marine and maritime programs, including majors in science, business, engineering, liberal arts, and transportation. It is driving the development of the blue economy in the Gulf Coast Region and is a critical contributor to Texas A&M’s sea-grant portion of Texas A&M’s rare land-, sea-, space-grant mission with nearly $10 million in research expenditures.
 
Texas A&M-Galveston is also home to the Texas A&M Maritime Academy, one of seven in the U.S. and the only academy integrated into a Tier 1 academic institution, which trains over 400 cadets annually for maritime service and employment around the world. Texas A&M-Galveston is ideally located in Galveston, Texas on the Gulf Coast where is it surrounded by the industry, environment and programs essential to fulfilling its special-purpose mission. Aggies are known for their deep commitment to the success of each other and their strong desire to serve.

If you are interested in supporting this endeavor or research, please contact the Texas A&M University at Galveston Office of Development by email at GiveToSeaAggies@txamfoundation.com or by calling (409) 740-4481.