Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?
Currently, I am helping to conduct research on making aquaponics systems more economically feasible. In this system, we are able to simultaneously raise fish and grow an assortment of plants. The fish waste fertilizes the plants, and the plants clean the water for the fish, forming a sustaining system from which we can harvest both fish and produce. My research background, however, is in deep-sea fish sensory biology. I studied and described the flow-sensing (lateral line) system in mid-water fishes for my Master’s research at the University of Rhode Island. For this research, I preserved fish specimens collected at sea and studied their morphology in detail back in the lab.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
When I turned 10 years old, my parents realized I was finally old enough to get SCUBA certified. They eagerly dusted off their wet suits and took me to the Caribbean to go on a dive vacation. From the instant I took my first breath underwater I was hooked. I was enamored with the lively coral reef ecosystem full of beautiful fishes and elaborate coral structures. I spent as much time as possible learning about marine organisms and have yet to get tired of the remarkable creatures that call the ocean home.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
My parents have always been my biggest fans. They have always encouraged me to pursue my passion.
What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?
I love looking at deep-sea fish specimens under a microscope. We know so little about these incredible animals - it is mind-blowing to study the anatomy and morphology of these fishes that are capable of living in such an extreme environment.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
I am still finding my way towards a career! As an undergraduate student, I volunteered and interned in several labs to get an idea of the types of research I liked and disliked. I worked in a genetics lab and interned at an aquarium and then at the Marine Biological Laboratory conducting research on fish sensory systems. All of my coursework and lab work has given me a better idea of what I like, but I am still trying to figure out exactly what I want to be when I grow up!
What are your degrees and certifications?
Bachelor of Science in Biology, emphasis in Ecology and Evolution – Regis University 2013; Masters of Science in Biological and Environmental Sciences – University of Rhode Island 2016; Rescue SCUBA certified
What are your hobbies?
I love dancing and riding my bike. I am a cupcake enthusiast and always enjoy tasting new wines and craft beers.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?
If you want to be a marine biologist, figure out what type of biology you enjoy. You may not always be able to work on your favorite animal (especially if it is a dolphin or a whale!) but if you find a discipline you enjoy, you have a better chance at applying your skills in that field towards your favorite animal someday. Work hard, make as many connections as you can, and be persistent. And finally, learn to talk to the public - we need more scientists who can communicate to non-scientists to get them excited about what we do!
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
Last year I heard about the internship program. I was accepted as a Science Intern and participated in the 2016 exploration. It was an incredible experience and I was quite fortunate to get invited back for the 2017 season!