In honor of World Ocean Day, rising leaders of the next generation of ocean stewards and explorers sat down to answer some questions and share some of their motivations, thoughts, and hopes for the ocean’s future. For all the data we collect, for every square inch of seafloor mapped or new species described, there is a complementary human story. This work can be filled with both excitement and tedium, frustration and hope, rigorous methodology, and curious wonder. Get a glimpse of the commitment and enthusiasm of these ocean explorers — and perhaps you’ll be inspired to share your own ocean story!
What does your ocean career look like?
"I’m an incoming Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where my research will focus on a large and important fish that resides in the Ross Sea, Antarctica — the Antarctic toothfish! I will look at the otolith chemistry of the toothfish to better understand life history traits, and in turn, help preserve and protect the largest marine protected area in the world. I love being able to study a remote ecosystem unlike any other and hope to continue to inspire others to learn about polar research!"
What keeps you motivated as you pursue your ocean career?
"I’m a pre-law student, and the reason why is ultimately to protect the people and places I love the most. The ocean, being one of the places closest to my heart, is a place I find peace in.
Like looking up at a sky full of stars, the sensation of staring at the surface from under the sea is a human marvel that I hope to preserve for generations to come."
What’s one fact you like to share to get folks excited about the ocean? What’s your hope for the future?
"Oftentimes, the ocean is overlooked as empty, passive, and disconnected from those of us who live inland. In fact, it's absolutely filled with life, including phytoplankton responsible for producing half of Earth’s oxygen!
My hope for the future is that nations globally can implement laws together that protect the functioning and health of the planet’s ocean."
What inspired you to pursue an ocean career?
"I was inspired to continue my path toward an ocean-related career after my at-sea study abroad program. Besides the adventure of sailing on a tall ship for several weeks, I was deeply motivated and inspired by my shipmates.
The people I met there and those I continue to meet in this field challenge me to work harder for ocean conservation and to be a better human."
How did you find your way to this career?
"I'm from eastern Pennsylvania, which has lakes and rivers but no coastal areas. With a lot of hard work, research, and persistence in getting involved in marine science activities, I set myself on a path to start a career studying the ocean. I found my way to an ocean career by applying to internships and contacting ocean career professionals to learn more about what steps I could take to get involved.
I would advise those in a similar situation to reach out to people in fields you are interested in to learn about their experiences and see if they have advice or guidance on how to reach your goals."
What inspired you to pursue an ocean-related career?
"I grew up ocean-adjacent visiting the Chesapeake Bay as a child in Maryland. Early experiences doing coastal wetland science, banding seabirds, and conducting passive acoustics research exposed me to important ocean conservation issues.
I was able to merge a lifelong love of animals with a passion for ocean conservation, and my passion for ocean wildlife keeps me going today!"
What's the most interesting experience of your ocean career so far? Do you have a favorite ocean fact to share?
"My most interesting ocean career experience thus far is a tie between rescuing a loggerhead sea turtle that had been injured at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina and teaching students about NOAA on a research vessel in the middle of the North Atlantic!
As for a favorite fact: the time we spend in and near the sea — surfing, snorkeling, tide pooling, lounging on the beach — brings us joy and also provides jobs for many. Ocean-based tourism and recreation accounts for about $143 billion per year to the U.S. economy alone. That’s only possible if we have a healthy and sustainable ocean."
Published June 8, 2023