During the Lophelia II 2012 expedition, Jay guiding the scientists in the search for deepwater corals on oil and gas platforms, such as this Lophelia imaged on the Zinc subsea installation in the Gulf of Mexico. Click image for larger view and image credit.
Change in Perspective
July 22, 2012
Let me open with a somewhat shocking statement – I never aspired to be a marine biologist. To me, it was a field far removed from anything a kid growing up in suburban Philadelphia could pursue. Yes, I was always interested in science, especially biology, but always figured I’d become a doctor, or teacher, or maybe even (as unbelievable as this sounds) a bank manager. To put it simply, marine biology was never on my radar as a potential career.
Then I started grad school, and in my first year of my program I met Erik Cordes, a deep-sea ecologist and prospective faculty member in Temple University’s Biology Department. I attended Erik’s research seminar as part of his interview and became absolutely enthralled with his work and the dozens of biological questions he posed as pillars of his research program. I was hooked, and I figured – let me see how I can become a part of this.
Fast forward to the present, after four years of Lophelia II, seven cruises, presentations at four international conferences, and a transition from the M.S. to Ph.D. program at Temple. I’ve had a perspective change – marine biology has become my career, my hobby, and my life.
My first day as a “marine biologist” was in September 2008, when I left my comfort zone in Philadelphia and flew to Gulfport, Mississippi, for the first Lophelia II cruise. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. My emotions were somewhat of a rollercoaster, oscillating between excitement for being at sea and making new discoveries, to utter fright that I would be unable to handle the challenges of adapting to life at sea and contributing to a major research program. That trip cemented my fascination with marine science, particularly deep-sea biology. I started crafting my ideas for my dissertation on that cruise and used the next three cruises of Lophelia II to collect the necessary data I would need to tell my story.
As chief scientist, Jay oversaw science operations to investigate deepwater corals on oil and gas platforms during the Lophelia II 2012 expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. Click image for larger view and image credit.