I work at the Shannon Point Marine Center which is part of Western Washington University.
My official title is Marine Scientist.
I was not interested in ocean sciences most of my life. When I was in college in Missouri. My work study job was to help set up the labs for biology classes and part of that job was to feed the animals that were in the salt water aquarium and we had some sea anemones in the salt water aquarium and I just thought they were super weird. And that was one of the initial things that sparked my interest.
So I went to the pharmacy school at the University of Kansas and I quickly after about a year realized that that wasn't really for me I was really that interested but I remembered those sea anemones and so I started working with a researcher named Dr. Daphne Fautin who is a sea anemone taxonomist at the University of Kansas and she she said to me one day that if I thought I might be interested in marine science at all that I should go somewhere and do an graduate program on the coast so I actually went to the Shannon Point Marine Center where I work now as an undergraduate and did a program there called the multicultural initiatives in the marine science undergraduate program-that's a mouthful-and this is where I met my my second major influence who is named Dr Brian Bingham. I worked with him there on a project involving the larvae of little sea squirts and that's when I decided that larvae were the coolest and that I was going to work on larvae from from then on out.
Now a days I travel maybe about once a year and I either go to sea to do something like what I'm doing now research cruise or I'll go to a research conference somewhere.
To have a job like mine you have to have a Ph D. in sciences and somehow specialize in the marine sciences.
For someone with my type of a job the salary range really varies and it depends it varies depending on a lot of things like where in the country you work, what level your position is if you're a new faculty member like I am or if you're at advanced one also if you're at a big research institution or a small undergraduate college like I am. So there's really a wide range. I think most scientists in academics, which is what you are in if you're working at a university or college probably work more than they have too, they technically have to I probably work about double what I'm required to.
So my job includes teaching classes and doing research and mentoring the research of the undergraduate students usually but also masters students and undergraduate interns from other institutions. So that's what my job is the research I do generally focuses on the larval forms of marine invertebrates so larvae are the babies the Marine invertebrate and I'm interested in how those how those larvae live and what they do while they're up in the water column.
That's a big question. Fascinating thing, so in my research life I guess the most fascinating thing, there are a lot of fascinating things. I'm always fascinated by looking at embryos develop and looking at larvae under a microscope. I think no matter how many times I see them I can at larvae under a microscope for hours. Or plankton in general but also the study site that I worked at for most of my Phd in the Gulf was a place called the brine pool which was pretty fascinating because it's an underwater lake that's surrounded by a bed of mussels and then just on this research cruise I saw hydrothermal vents for the first time which are also really really amazing. So I think those are among the most fascinating things I've seen.
Personal rewards. Well it's definitely rewarding to be able to help introduce students that don't know a lot about the marine environment to introduce them to the marine environment and because I guess I kind of understand where a lot of students are coming from because I didn't know much about the ocean until I was well into college and so it's really fun to introduce them to the weird stuff that goes on in the ocean and then also to help them kind of develop their own careers..
Well in addition to just any discoveries that I may make during this research I think it beneficial to help teach students and I also work with a lot of volunteer groups, a lot of citizen science groups right now. So I try to do outreach as much as I can in my community.
In a lot of states there are a lot of jobs for people that have some experience in marine science. For example I live in Washington State and I could probably work with a government agency of federal or state government agency or with a tribal agency as well. In addition to other kinds of education institutions.
Looking back on my education journey I think I might have gotten a masters before I got a Ph D. I went directly to a Phd program and I found since then that a lot of there's a lot of jobs that you can do with a masters in marine science and then you can always go on to get a Ph D. later if you decide that that's what you want to do, and I think also if you get a masters is a lot of times you're much better prepared to sail quickly and smoothly through your Ph D. program. But other than that I don't think it was detrimental that I didn't do a masters, but I think it could have been beneficial.Return to profile