The Team

Ship Location

Channel Islands, USA

Elizabeth Duncan

Photo of Elizabeth Duncan
Science/Data Team
California Sea Grant State Fellow
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?

I am a Sea Grant State Fellow in the Research Department at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. I am currently helping progress the Condition of the Sanctuary Report in its final stages, identifying future research needs based on this report, identifying and quantifying the various services the Sanctuary provides to stakeholders and the ecosystem and generally assisting the sanctuary in fulfilling its science, education, conservation, and stewardship goals. My research background is in intertidal ecology where I used both field work and mathematical models to predict how climate change may affect the endangered black abalone, but my interests range from the physiological responses of organisms to their environment to how whole organism responses may scale up to influence marine communities and ecosystems. I'm also very interested in how this kind of scientific information could inform management decisions that impact and protect our precious marine resources.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I knew I wanted to be some kind of marine biologist at a young age. Growing up in inland California, the highlight of my entire year was visiting the ocean on vacation with my family! So, it only made sense to me to major in Marine Biology as an undergraduate at Long Beach State. From there, the hands-on learning and field trips in my major courses only fueled my passion, leading me to volunteer in multiple research labs, and take jobs/internships that also got me interested in the policy side of marine science. I'm in the wonderful position I am now because I always pursued what fascinated me. 

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My undergraduate professors, particularly those whose labs I volunteered in, were all very engaging and encouraging. As a first generation college student, together they gave me the confidence to pursue a higher degree (MS).

What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?

I think it is fascinating to understand why biological communities are the way they are. From complex relationships between community members, all the way down to an individual's physiology - it's all connected. All pieces of the puzzle are important.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

As an undergrad, I managed data, coordinated outreach, and was a research assistant. These jobs gave me the skills and confidence to pursue a Masters degree in biology at Long Beach State. Because of my thesis topic, I worked with NOAA throughout my graduate work, which nurtured my interest in the integration of science and policy. However, with a mostly academic research background, I knew I needed more experience with state or federal agencies to discover how science influences decision making. The California Sea Grant State Fellows program is designed to do just that for recent graduate students, so I applied and was matched with the Sanctuary here!

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology - California State University, Long Beach 2012; Masters in Biology - California State University, Long Beach 2017; Rescue/Scientific SCUBA diver 2015; 

What are your hobbies?

I love staying active since I'm on a computer a lot - like running, hiking, diving, snorkeling, and yoga. I like to de-stress by cooking and getting creative with sketching or painting. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?

If you want to be some kind of marine biologist, I'd say (even if you don't like it or it's difficult) find opportunities to sharpen your quantitative skills. It will make you more competitive in general for various positions because statistics are useful to help tell a story or to make decisions. And, with free software like R, coding skills are becoming more universal and almost a standard depending on what you're interested in specifically.

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?

As a part of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary team, we are partners with Ocean Exploration Trust and this opportunity was offered to me to be able to get out into the sanctuary to see what I've been learning about and helping to monitor during my fellowship.