What is your current job and what does it entail?
I am currently a postdoctoral fellow employed by the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii – Manoa. I work closely with the NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Division. My job is to analyze long-term acoustic recordings from coral reefs throughout the Pacific Ocean. Many species of fish, marine mammals and marine invertebrates produce sound, and I am interested in using acoustics as a tool to monitor coral reef biodiversity, changes in reefs over time, and patterns in animal behavior and abundance. The work I am doing entails processing lots of large data sets on a computer, and I often need to write my own custom programs to do so. I also am fortunate to go out to sea once or twice a year on NOAA research vessels and conduct scientific scuba dives. Some other aspects of the job include writing scientific publications, supervising and collaborating with others, participating in conferences, and conducting public outreach.
What was the key factor in your career decision?
What do like most about your career?
I made the decision to become a biologist after my first year of college, after I had explored a couple of other majors, including engineering and theater. To me, biology is the most interesting science because it combines so many of the other sciences and mathematical disciplines. It also is a great career for someone who is curious and fascinated by the natural world, and provides some pretty amazing experiences, such as field work in really cool places and using cutting-edge technology to collect and analyze data.
I love everything about my current career! It combines my background in biology and acoustics with my scuba diving obsession. There are all sorts of exciting questions to answer in this relatively new field, and it involves working in one of the most beautiful – and threatened – ecosystems on our planet. I hope that the work I do will contribute to a better understanding and more effective conservation of coral reefs and the animals that inhabit them.
What do you like least about your career?
There are times when it can feel overwhelming to be working on many things at once, but I’d rather have too much variety than not enough!
What do you do to relax?
I practice yoga, work in my garden, dive and snorkel, hike and read books.
Who are your heroes/heroines?
What advice would you give a high school student who expressed an interest in pursuing a career in your field?
There are many women who have made great contributions to the fields of scuba diving and marine science and conservation – Zale Parry and Dr. Sylvia Earle (see Women Divers Hall of Fame at wdhof.org), and Dr. Celia Smith, to name a few. I admire these women for their passion and intelligence, as well as their commitment to education and communication.
Be on the lookout for opportunities to volunteer or work for a marine research lab. You may be able to find public lectures on topics that interest you at your local university, library or another venue. Introduce yourself to the people whom you might like to work for. There are also several email listservs that provide job opportunities, publications, helpful websites and other information. Be open to new experiences and ask lots of questions!
Are career opportunities in your field increasing or decreasing and why?
I think, overall, that career opportunities in the marine sciences are increasing because people are beginning to recognize and value the vital roles that oceans play in our lives, such as regulating our climate, feeding us, providing disease-fighting chemical compounds, and being just plain beautiful and fun for us to enjoy. However, these roles are being dramatically impacted by humans, and we need to continue learning about the oceans and how they're changing and applying this knowledge to come up with better policies.
What will you be doing 10 years from today?
I am not even sure what I’ll be doing one year from today! I would like to have a career that balances research with teaching and outreach.