Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?
My passion is marine invertebrates and designing methods of conservation for endangered populations such as coral reef communities.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
I have always loved animals and water. When I was younger it seemed simple that a career I would enjoy would be one that included both. As I grew up I narrowed and refined my interests to marine invertebrates. I was intent on never working in a cubicle.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
My parents have always, always, always been extremely supportive of my career choice. Neither of them are pros at swimming but they have always been more than willing to pay for, get me to etc whatever I needed to, to advance my career.
What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?
The most fascinating thing I have done would probably be defined by my experience on Oregon II with NOAA during June of 2017. I learned about so many fish and invert populations present in the Gulf of Mexico. My fingers were red and swollen from the pinches, bites and general prickliness of the fish and invertebrates but I couldn't have been happier.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
I was fortunate enough to be accepted in an NSF REU program at California State University-Monterey Bay (CSUMB) doubling as an intern through both CSUMB and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. I worked with Dr. Francisco Chavez on eDNA methods and how they could be used to identify relationships between organisms.
What are your degrees and certifications?
Bachelor of Science in Zoology specializing in Animal Biology and double minoring in Computer Science and Chemistry- Southern Illinois University-Carbondale 2017
PADI Open Water Diver Certification- 2011
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy baking and cooking, so far the creation I'm most proud of is my chocolate mousse cheesecake. Triple layer cheesecake with a ganache shell, a layer of chocolate mousse, a third layer of vanilla cream cheese with a chocolate cookie crust.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?
If you are interested in becoming a marine biologist I would suggest acquiring a skill set and knowledge that would be useful in a variety of environments. For example, I would suggest getting a minor or if possible double majoring in your undergraduate career in geology, computer science, chemistry, or ecology etc. Academics and experience are of equal importance, definitely seek out opportunities from volunteering to internships that will get you hands on experience working on research. Keep your mind open as the first lab experience you ever have may not be what you want to do for the rest of your life, but the skills you learn could be applied to your personal research in the future.