Dr. Peter Auster: Closing Remarks
My advice to students who want to become ecologists or marine biologists or oceanographer is keep that brass ring in mind and go out and get lots of experience. My first job, I think I made $7,000 a year, but I got to go dive all the time. And I did things like chasing whales around as part of a citation population assessment project and I went to sea as a fishery observer in the Gulf of Alaska in the Bering Sea and got lots of experience in the field and that was even more important than the experiential part of a potential employer knowing that I could go to sea. Being able to go out and do these things, maybe think about interesting questions about the nature of fish communities and populations and... I also didn't get all my degrees right away. I got my bachelors’ degree then I worked for 5 years. Then I went back and got my masters; worked for a long time and then I got my PhD even a little later in life. But all these things gave me valuable experience about how things operate in nature and it just gave me a slue of questions that two or three careers couldn't begin to answer. So there are just lots of unknowns out in the ocean; the least explored part of our planet. And on top of that, just that basic desire to explore is the more practical issue to conserving biological diversity. As the human population grows we need more and more smart people who can gain new insights into how the ocean works and animals that live within it work and how we'll be able to conserve these as human needs grow to exploit different parts of the ocean.
I think my most memorable dive was on the Great Barrier Reef off in Northeastern Australia sitting amongst all these predators feeding on reef fishes. Large Jackson and a Bluefin Trevally and sharks and it was probably one of the most complete communities I've ever seen besides communities of fish in the deep sea that tend to be more spread out, but just the number and diversity of the fish on that spot on the great barrier reef was incredible. And the ability to go see something like that is getting more and more rare as people adventure out and exploit more areas in the ocean and the fact that the Australian government had the wisdom to make that part of the Great Barrier Reef marine park and protect those areas just made it an incredible experience.
One of the most inspirational quotes comes from Baba Dioum who was a Senegal ecologist who said, "In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. And we will understand only what we are taught." And I've got this incredible opportunity in my career to gain new knowledge about marine biological diversity and apply that to conservation needs in both local... regional and global scales.