Christina Kellogg: OceanAGE Career Profile

 

Meet Dr. Christina Kellogg, a research microbiologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, who studies the microbes found on corals. Click on the images above to hear Christina talk about her job, or read the full text of Christina's interview below to learn more about her job.

 

About the Job

What is your title?

Research Microbiologist.

Where do you work?

U.S. Geological Survey, part of the Department of Interior.

Do you travel often? To where?

Yes! It’s one of my favorite parts of my job. I travel for field work to collect samples – places have included the Aleutian Islands, Barbados, the Gulf of Mexico, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. I also travel to attend conferences to present the results of my work. This has taken me to China, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and all over the United States.

What are the educational requirements for your job?

Having a Ph.D. and post-doctoral experience. 

What is the salary range for someone with your type of job?

I am a principal investigator with my own lab; on federal pay scales, the range is about $60,000 - $130,000, annually.

How many hours do you work per week?

I normally work a 40-hour week. During a research cruise, it becomes more like 80-100 hours a week.

Job Duties

Tell us about the types of things you do.

I am an environmental microbiologist, which means I study microscopic organisms in nature (as opposed to clinical microbiologists who work in hospitals). My lab is currently focused on the microbes associated with corals, both tropical shallow-water species and deep-sea species. Just like people have bacteria on their skin and in their guts without which they would not be healthy, corals also have their own microbes that are part of their healthy biology. I use classic microbiological tools and modern molecular methods to identify those microbes (i.e., figure out who’s there) and then try to determine what they are doing, to better understand coral biology BEFORE a disease outbreak rather than after.

What is the most fascinating thing you have ever seen or done?

Having the opportunity to make dives in both the Delta and the Johnson-Sea-Link submersibles has definitely been a career highlight. It is incredible to be over a thousand feet underwater, actually seeing the deep-sea corals you work on in their natural habitat, knowing on each dive you may be seeing something that no one else has ever laid eyes on.

What are the personal rewards of your work?

I enjoy the variety of sometimes doing lab work, sometimes being in the field collecting samples, and sometimes being at my desk doing analysis and writing. I love that I meet and work with scientists from all over the world who are passionate about what they do. And it is a huge bonus that I get to travel all over the world.

How does your work benefit the public?

By discovering new biodiversity (at the microbial level) and by teasing out one part of the puzzle of how coral ecosystems function.

What else could someone with your background do?

The microbiology and molecular biology techniques I use for environmental samples are also used in clinical laboratories, biotechnology companies, and pharmaceutical companies. Since I have an academic background, I could also teach at the high school, community college, or university level.

About Christina

What sparked your initial interest in ocean sciences?

I grew up on a boat in the Caribbean, surrounded by the ocean.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My ‘role-model aunt’ Dr. Judith Connor, a phycologist (person who studies algae) who currently works at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and my high school marine biology teacher, Mr. Mark De Bie.

Looking back, was there anything you would have done differently in your education or career journey?

It would have been great to work in a laboratory as an undergraduate. Instead, I had a work-study job in an office. I think early exposure to the lab gives you amazing preparation for graduate school and helps you find out whether you love it or not before you commit to graduate school. So I make it a point to make time for undergraduate interns to work in my lab so that I can give them that opportunity.

What obstacles did you encounter along the way?

The usual – experiments that didn’t always work or took months instead of days and being a poor graduate student subsisting on Ramen noodles.

What are your hobbies?

Reading science fiction, learning to make stained glass panels, underwater photography.

For More Information

Related Ocean Explorer Content

Deepwater Canyons 2013: Pathways to the Abyss

Deepwater Canyons 2012: Microbial Architects

Lophelia II 2012: Grow in Culture, Maybe?

Expedition to the Deep Slope 2007: Marine Viruses

Print and Web Resources

U.S. Geological Survey Professional Page: Christina Kellogg

Coral Microbial Ecology

Dr. Christina Kellogg, Environmental MicrobiologistExternal Link

Introduction to Microbial Week by Christina KelloggExternal Link, Deep Sea News

Follow Christina Kellogg on Twitter: @DrChrisKelloggExternal Link

MarineCareers.net External Link
This site, sponsored by NOAA's National Sea Grant College Program, introduces a wide range of marine career fields and people working in those fields. Professionals describe what they like and dislike about their careers, what they see for the future in their fields, and much more. The site also provides salary and other pertinent career information.


Please note that all OceanAGE Career content was current at the time that interviews were recorded; however, profiles are not being updated to reflect subsequent career changes.