Alec Ramirez headshot photo

Alec Ramirez

Seafloor Mapping Intern
Recent Graduate
University of California, Santa Barbara

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

I study sea surface cover change using aerial and satellite images, primarily to assess the effectiveness of conservation strategies. I look at things like kelp, algal blooms, and other sea surface phenomena to draw conclusions about the health of ocean and land ecosystems. Most of my research has been done on the Northern and Central California Coast, including the Channel Islands. While we can learn a lot from the ocean's surface, so many answers still hide in the depths. I hope to soon use other active remote sensing techniques for underwater exploration.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I grew up in and around the ocean, and from a young age I wanted to learn more about the plants and animals that call the ocean home. I began my college education in marine biology, but after being introduced to oceanography I was captivated by the physical processes of the ocean because they are so powerful and important for all life on Earth. I then changed my studies to focus on geography and oceanography. When I was introduced to mapping and remote sensing, I was amazed that I had the ability to study practically anywhere in the world from the convenience of my desk. Still, large gaps exist in our data for the ocean floor. Seafloor mapping has the potential to enable so much science for anyone, anywhere in the world who wants to use it.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My family always encouraged me to pursue my interests and supported me throughout my education. They always ask about what I am studying, and I am always thrilled to discuss my research with them.

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

I find the most fascinating aspect of my work is seeing how much can changes in such a short amount of time. Recently I mapped the kelp canopy in the northern Channel Islands in California, and saw an explosion of growth in only a few years. The ocean is so dynamic, and catching these changes truly reveals the ability of an ecosystem to recover from the brink of disaster.

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

I applied as a mapping intern after being told about the program by my undergraduate advisor.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

During my undergraduate studies, I engaged in independent and group research utilizing remote sensing methods to map all kinds of ocean phenomena. I also worked as a laboratory manager at the Mesoamerican Research Center where I mapped the terrain of Belize and Guatemala using LiDAR. These roles have been key to developing my research, but before all this I worked as a cashier, a barista, a roofer, a lifeguard, a warehouse associate, and so many more odd jobs that grew other soft skills that are just as important as the technical ones. Because I've done so many things, I feel confident that now I've found my calling in science.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Associate of Arts in Geography - Cabrillo College 2021; Bachelor of Arts in Geography with emphasis in Geographic Information Science - University of California, Santa Barbara 2023.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy surfing, fishing, and mountain biking. I'll do just about anything to get outdoors when I have the chance!

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

If you are interested in mapping, I've got good news: you can start at home with any computer! All the data you could want starting out is available for free from government agencies, and good software can also be found for free. I always wanted to be an ocean scientist, but instead of study ocean science generally, I studied mapping in a geography department to apply to ocean science later in my career. Whatever you want to do, you're never stuck with your experience or your education. You can always bring your own perspective into a new opportunity, and most of the time your perspective can help everyone learn new things. Be open and adaptable, and you can map the ocean too!


Alec participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions:

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