The Team

Ship Location

E Pacific Ocean

Megan Cook

Photo of Megan Cook
Community STEM Program Coordinator
Ocean Exploration Trust

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

I work at OET as part of the Education, Outreach & Communication Team. I manage the Community STEM Program which brings together exceptional partners in the ocean education realm from all across the country and helps grow OET programs to inspire our next generation of young explorers. Every day is different as our small team works together to plan and execute all of the operations and education programs year-round. I travel frequently to teach workshops and present ocean exploration news to new audiences. I help train the Corps of Exploration to accurately and passionately communicate science. I support the digital team to keep filled with rich resources for learners around the world. I get to collaborate with all kinds of incredibly smart, talented people: scientists, engineers, funding partners, educators, community organizations, young students, and national leaders. 

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

Lots of six-year-olds want to be marine biologists. I was definitely one of them! The ocean seemed really far away from my house in Idaho, but the creatures that lived there were so wacky and cool! My first-grade teacher was a professional scientist-turned-educator and brought all kinds of ocean resources into her class. I remember doing math with shells and drawing crayon ocean currents. She made science seem really possible and my curiosity flourished. She gets a lot of credit.

My parents and grandparents had a lot to do with my interest since they raised an active, outdoor family. We spent time as kids playing in the park, hiking off the beaten path, camping by lakes and streams, and being sent outside to run around basically every day. Those settings helped me learn to observe nature in detail and to ask good questions which is exactly what being a scientist is all about. 

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

In every career path, I have found mentors who I look up to and can learn from. Some have been in formal mentorship positions like advisors, bosses, and field crew chiefs. I also find major motivation by celebrating the success of my coworkers, classmates, and friends. I appreciate all the teachers who taught me it was cool to work hard and be fascinated by new things. 

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

I am extremely grateful that my work is helping people fall into fascination with our planet. I love that I get to use technology to share really cool ocean stories with the world. I love presenting to new audiences to share that fascination. The spark of discovery never gets old for me. Every day we put the ROVs into the water my team and I, including learners all over the world, can discover and experience something entirely new.

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program?  

I first met the Nautilus Exploration Program by seeing the live feed online. In 2012, I met the Core Team on the last day of the expedition as Hercules had just discovered a shipwreck near Knidos, Turkey. I couldn’t believe I was seeing such a remarkable moment LIVE and knew I definitely wanted to find a way to work with the group. I applied for the Educator Program- now called the Science Communication Fellowship- as an informal educator, a writer for Mission Blue. I returned to the team as a Lead SCF in 2014 and was hired in 2015 after the Community STEM Program was created. 

What other jobs led you to your current career? 

Although I knew I wanted to work in an ocean field, my pathway to this point has taken me in many directions. My first experience teaching others about discovery was as a high-school docent in my hometown zoo. In college, I worked as a tour guide and as a researcher studying tropical fish reproduction and competition. I have worked as a submarine copilot, an invasive species wrangler, an operations manager handling small boats, a writer, a scuba diving and freediving instructor, a public speaker for ocean conservation groups, a fitness instructor, and an underwater camerawoman. Learning that my passion was in sharing ocean stories was a major turning point for my career leading me to use my science training framed more by education, communication, and writing skills. 

What are your degrees and certifications?

I have a Bachelor of Science in biology and chemistry from Oregon State University with an emphasis of marine biology. I was an International Scholar studying tropical ecology at James Cook University in Australia and studied oceanography with Sea Education Association. I am also a scuba diving and emergency first response instructor.

What are your hobbies?

I love reading, working out at the gym, traveling around the world, and collecting googled-eyed kitchen gadgets. 

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

The advice I would give to someone interested in my career is in the competitive field of ocean research, it has very often been my non-science skills that have given me the added advantage over many people who have good grades. Skills like writing, public speaking, troubleshooting, teamwork, and manners open lots of doors. Willingness to learn and offering to help people do unglamorous parts of their jobs are great ways to show initiative. No one enters any field as the instant boss in the highest paid, coolest position. Stay willing to learn new approaches as you rise through responsibilities. Other skills that are science-adjacent, but extremely valuable are data processing, GIS, boat handling skills, equipment maintenance, engine repair and grant writing. 

I can’t wait to share this season of the Nautilus Exploration program with you. We have only just begun to understand the soggy 71% of our planet. Join me in the constant thrill of seeing what's just beyond the ROV lights!