The University's mermaid

Third-year College student creatively advocates for conservation


Parcells is an environmental science major and says that even though the nearest large body of water is several hours away, local litter is still a serious conservation issue that children should be aware of.

Hales Parcells

Like many other young girls, third-year College student Hales Parcells dreamed of becoming the Little Mermaid when she grew up. At the University, Parcells found a way to turn this dream into reality while teaching others about the conservation of the Chesapeake Bay.

“Being away from the ocean, I realized how much I cared about that part of my life,” Parcells said. “I always liked mermaids — maybe it’s a Virginia Beach thing. I always thought it was a normal thing.”

She purchased her first mermaid tail through an online retailer.

“I wanted to devote my life to studying [conservation] and being a mermaid is a creative way to do that,” Parcells said. “Even though in Charlottesville we are three hours from water, the litter we have here still matters.”

Parcells was confronted with the opportunity to combine her love of mermaids and acting with her interest in the environment when children’s author Daniel Ford, stumbled across a Facebook photo of her wearing the mermaid tail.

Parcells and Ford teamed up to read to children in Charlottesville and Virginia Beach schools and teach them about conservation. The performance showcases Parcells in mermaid costume presenting a 45-minute reading of Ford’s book.

“Having a mermaid there draws [the kids’] attention to the issue more than just having someone just sitting and reading to them,” Parcells said.

Parcells’ roommate, third-year College student Susan Swicegood, did not find Parcells’ interest in mermaids surprising.

“If you know her it makes sense; she’s happy, bubbly [and] charismatic,” Swicegood said.

Swicegood has accompanied Parcells to her events and assisted her efforts at local preschools.

“[The students] love her; she’s so good with them,” Swicegood said. “They ask her, ‘how do you become a mermaid?’ and she does this whole story where she [explains how she] wishes really hard.”

An Environmental Science major, Parcells practices conservation in her daily life and enjoys acting as a mermaid to spread the message to others. Parcells hopes to expand her influence in the Charlottesville community by working at birthday parties and public events.

“[I] hope to do more to promote conservation,” Parcells said. “I would love this to be a career, but I think it [will have to] be a side job. [I] don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon.”

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