Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?
I am broadly interested in questions about deep sea biodiversity and biogeography with a focus on the coral and sponge communities that live the on the flanks of seamounts. I am also interested in questions about how to explore the ocean better.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
When I was 5 years old I met a manatee on a family vacation to the Florida Keys and on the drive back to Georgia family legends says I announced I wanted to be a marine biologist and I never looked back.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
I have had numerous mentors who have greatly influenced my career far too many to list here but one of the most influential was one of my high school teachers. Ms. Souter was our oceanography teacher and also the coach of our school Nation Ocean Sciences Bowl team. She introduced me to so many new things that really shaped my career for decades to come.
What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?
That is an almost impossible question to answer, as it changes every day. Some days it is seeing a new seamount or animal that no one has ever seen. Other days it might be trying to figure out how to write a computer script to analyze data more efficiently and yet on another day it might just be the sunset from the deck of the ship.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
I started my career as a NOAA Corps officer driving research vessels then moved into working more closely with the mapping and ROV teams on the ship. From there I started doing more project management type work coordinating exploration expeditions and managing telepresence systems for NOAA. Then I got into program management as the deputy program manager for the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. That job got me a little too far from the science so I started working on a Ph.D. in marine ecology where I would use all of my operations experience and be more involved in the day-to-day science.
What are your degrees and certifications?
MS and Ph.D. degrees in Marine Ecology from Boston University BS in marine biology from the College of Charleston
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy almost anything outside but for the most part you can find me kayaking, SCUBA diving or flying gliders whenever I can.
What advice would you give to someone who was interested in a career like yours?
Polite persistence, Marine science can be a hard career to get started in and it requires a lot of persistence. Sometimes you have to send numerous email to the same person to get their attention. So people wanting to enter the field need to learn how to be politely pushy to get noticed and get some of the early opportunities that help you along your career track.
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
I got to know the OET team while I was working for NOAA and they invited me to come sail on Nautilus.