Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?
For the past three years I've worked in Dr. Patrick Abbot's lab at Vanderbilt University studying the evolution of sociality in non-model organisms, or organisms that have not been extensively studied by the scientific community. My focus has been a comparative study among different species of aphids as only certain species exhibit social behavior. During the summer, I head to the coast to pursue field-based internships exploring the marine world.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
In fourth grade I participated in my first science fair and I've been hooked ever since. After visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in high school and learning about the incredible creatures that exist and thrive in some of the world's most extreme environments, I knew I wanted to study the deep sea. Through a science writing and journalism course at my university, I realized that even the most innovative research has little impact unless it's communicated in an effective and engaging manner. I hope to pursue a career that incorporates my background in science with a growing appreciation of outreach and education.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
My family taught me to set high standards and continuously work to achieve my goals, but never take myself too seriously. I wouldn't be where I am today without their constant support and terrible jokes.
What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?
Every time I go underwater, I'm reminded that I get to explore a part of the world that most people will never get a chance to experience. The realization is both invigorating and humbling, and the experience is unparalleled.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
From working at a traveling aquarium to writing science articles for a school paper to diving the Great Barrier Reef, I'm pursuing varied experiences to help me figure out what type of career I will pursue after college.
What are your degrees and certifications?
I attend Vanderbilt University and am working towards a Bachelor of Science in Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology with a minor in Science Communication. Additionally, I'm certified as an AAUS Scientific Diver and PADI Divemaster.
What are your hobbies?
SCUBA diving is definitely my favorite activity. I also love to travel - I just got back from a semester abroad in Australia and am already planning my next adventure.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?
Don't be afraid of rejection and be persistent! I applied to work on Nautilus multiple times before getting a spot on board. If there's a certain position or internship you're interested in, try to determine what kind of skills you'll need to be a successful applicant and work to gain that experience. Marine science is an extremely competitive field, so having a diverse resume is a huge advantage.
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
I sailed with Nautilus last summer as an Ocean Science Intern and was lucky enough to come back this summer as part of Data Team Awesome.
"I believe that effective and engaging communication is key for any research endeavor, and I am excited to share my experiences while on board Nautilus!"
Catie participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: