Sarah Cooperman ’17 is one of a kind, not only in her outrageous sense of humor, but also in her immense talent. “Scoops,” as she is widely known, is on the swim team, belts with the Ephlats and is uniquely knowledgeable about the animal kingdom. I sat down with Cooperman to chat about everything from her unabashed obsession with whales to her (suspect) claim to being the reason behind Miranda Kerr and Orlando Bloom’s breakup to her early aspirations to be on the experimental reality show Kid Nation.
So Scoops, how’s the start of this year goin’ for ya?
It’s good so far. I’m alive still. [Laughs.] Yeah the three-lab life has not gotten to me quite yet, but maybe check back in a couple weeks and make sure I’m alive.
What are you studying?
I think I’m going to be a bio major with an envi studies concentration. I’m just… I like whales a lot? So hopefully I’ll just take bio and eventually I can just hang out with whales the rest of my life. [Laughs.] That’s the goal. I don’t know what kind of classes will get me to that sort of degree. But actually a whale specialist, a cetologist, is a real thing. And I Wikipedia them in my spare time. [Laughs.] So that’s one of the options. I’d also like to work at a sloth sanctuary. Really anything with animals and not a lot of human interaction would kind of be my ideal situation.
What turns you off about humans? And what – I’m not going to say turns you on about animals, but… why the connection to animals?
Humans can be really noisy chewers. I mean, humans smell weird but not in a nice way. Like, a barn smell is really nice. But yeah, I just think animals don’t really pass judgments, so they’re all just… nice.
Have you done work over the summers with animals?
Yeah, I did this trip with Polar Bears International, a non-profit that every year sends a group of teenagers up to Churchill in Manitoba, Canada. And you basically live there on this eco-mobile 30 miles away from the nearest civilization, in the middle of the tundra. You learn about polar bears and climate change, and more importantly you learn how to talk about climate change to a wide variety of audiences. So after I got home I gave presentations to elderly people, kindergarteners and high schoolers. It’s really about learning to engage different types of communities in climate change discourse.
That’s so cool.
Yeah, it was. And polar bears just came right up to the vehicle we lived on, the Tundra Buggy. It uses biodegradable fuel, and we pack in and pack out all their water and food. Polar bears don’t even pay attention to it – they just kind of wander about in their daily activities.
Aren’t polar bears vicious and extremely dangerous to humans?
They’re getting more vicious with changes in climate and with food shortages, as they normally eat seals. So the thinning of the seal populations causes polar bears to be more attracted to human smells. But, it’s kind of funny, they have a little polar bear police force in Churchill since polar bears are wandering the town all the time. They’re just, like, the secret agents that deal with polar bears that walk into town. They scare them away and there’s a polar bear jail where they’ll keep particularly rambunctious polar bears.
No way. So that was your first look into this life of animal research?
I think Free Willy was my first look. [Laughs.] Free Willy honestly changed my life. I saw it when I was four or five and I would rent it from Blockbuster probably every week for a year, like Free Willy I, II and III on repeat. I started collecting whale figurines too. [Laughs.] So I have this little section of my room dedicated to different whale sculptures, and I have whale mobiles hanging from the ceiling and whale wallpaper. So, that passion has kind of molded into a passion for climate change and other issues, not just whales. But they’re always there.
You also worked at your local aquarium over the summers, right?
Oh my goodness. It was so awesome! I mean sometimes it was really, really boring when no one showed up and you’re just kind of sitting in front of the shark tank and holding shark jaws and petting them to pass the time.
You can pet the sharks?!
Yeah, and sometimes I would fall asleep in the shark tank area when no one walked through because they just played this ethereal music, and, like, these sharks were just kind of chilling. And you’re like, wow, I’m really tired.
What was your favorite exhibit or job they had you do?
That’s got to be the seals – because that’s the exhibit when you get a lot of questions, and you also get to help feed the seals. And one time Vicki, my coworker, gave me some leftover seal hair she picked up, so now I just have this little box on my bureau at home filled with seal hair. [Laughs.] And sometimes when I have people over I’ll say, ‘Hey, do you want to touch some seal hair?’ And normally I get a weird look and if they don’t run out of my house I’ll let them touch the seal hair. That’s how I know they’re good, compatible friends… Yeah, I think that’s my favorite kind of human.
[Laughs.] What other adventures have you had over the summers?
This past summer I worked for Overland, in Williamstown. I had done Overland trips as a student, like a cross-country bike trip and a bike trip in Europe. This summer I was on support staff, which was really great. I drove around a big, 15 passenger van and a U-haul for nine hours at a time, which was kind of terrifying, but I really bonded with it. I got to live in 71 Hoxsey with a bunch of other really awesome, kind of crunchy, weird, super-fun kids. It was very wholesome.
After a summer of leading outdoor trips, how was being a WOOLF [Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First-Years] leader?
So good! Shout-out to B4. I think WOOLF is the perfect way to start the year. We were the Land B-4 Time, get it? We dressed up as cavemen. We also actually forgot our menu, so we just improvised all our meals and did random creative stuff with our food. An unexpected hiccup was that I had to inspect a WOOLFie for ticks, let’s just say where the sun doesn’t shine.
[Laughs.] Dear lord. Well, Scoops, what’s something about yourself that people would not know immediately?
Oh I love Orlando Bloom. This is gonna sound so weird! [Laughs.] But, I think colonial wear is really cool. In Pirates of the Caribbean, which came out when I was approximately eight, he was wearing this really colonial period-esque white gauzy shirt, and he was on a boat, and the wind was kind of just whipping through his hair, and I was kind of just like, “Wow, this guy is really good looking!” He’s kind of been on the back burner as a potential husband. That’s actually the reason why he and Miranda Kerr broke up. Besides that, I love flossing. [Laughs.] I floss every single night, often in the morning. Also, I have a great goat noise, but I think people already know that.
Want to do it?
Yeah my voice is pretty hoarse now, but I’ll try. [Sarah bleats.] That’s a little dry, that’s like an elderly goat.
[Laughs.] Anything else?
I hate kale. I tried out for that show Kid Nation, I sent out an audition tape – it’s that show that got shut down for child labor in New Mexico. They put these kids together to live without adults and it’s like a “Kid Nation.” I just thought that was so cool.
Did you parents know you applied?
Yeah, we sent it in but then the show got shut down for child labor laws. But yeah, I remember my first line was like, “Hi. I’m Sarah Cooperman. You may be wondering why I’m carrying a spoon right now. I don’t know why either!” And I threw it over my shoulder. [Laughs.] I don’t know why, I was 11. Oh, I also used to make iMovie home videos when I was bored and no one wanted to hang out with me. One of them was called “Foot World News” and I drew little faces on my feet and videotaped them and made news segments. I had my mom sit there with ballet flats and help me out. She was like, “I don’t have time for this Sarah!”
I think the world needs to see that.