Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?
I am the Research Coordinator at Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS, cordellbank.noaa.gov) where I lead our science program. The mission of the science program is to research, characterize, and monitor species and habitats so that we can understand what resources are in the sanctuary and how they are changing over time in response to stressors, as well as in response to management actions. My job is to determine how to collect, analyze, and summarize information that can be used by managers, which is often accomplished by developing collaborations with experts outside of sanctuaries to meet our shared goals. I go to sea to work on a wide variety of marine science projects including our current major priorities: integrated pelagic ecosystem health, benthic science, ocean acoustics, and oceanographic monitoring for hypoxia and ocean acidification. The rest of the time I’m in the office working up data and reports from past missions or planning for the next one.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
I had an early interest in science because I liked learning about how the natural world works and was drawn to marine ecosystems by the fascinating life forms and habitats. I felt passionate about pursuing science that could directly contribute to preserving these ecosystems, which led me to applied research for marine conservation. The multi-disciplinary, collaborative work that we do in National Marine Sanctuaries is exactly the type of work that I had hoped to be doing.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
My family has a strong education ethic and always encouraged me to pursue my curiosity, which was fundamental for the science training I eventually undertook. There are so many teachers, professors, graduate students, peers, bosses, and colleagues who were generous in sharing their knowledge, and provided opportunities for me to learn and grow. My partner’s belief in me and support for my career has pushed me and enabled me to take advantage of opportunities.
What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a pretty spectacular place, and anytime I get to go there, or even just see images from there, I am reminded how special it is. I love that in my job I get to take a broad, big picture view of marine science for management, and to work on a variety of specific projects. I find it very rewarding when work that we’ve done reaches a broader audience or is used in management.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
The most relevant jobs I had were science diver and marine invasive species research biologist. In addition to the science roles I have had in sanctuaries, I’ve also worked on other programs while working at my previous post at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, including working with the Advisory Council, and on the regulatory side, which has given me a well-rounded view of the work our organization does.
What are your degrees and certifications?
Bachelor of Science in Biology – University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Master of Science in Ecology – San Diego State University
What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are swimming, hiking, running, reading, traveling, and volunteering in my community.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to have a career like yours?
My advice is to pursue a broad educational foundation, and sample as much as you can through seminars, field opportunities, volunteering, and internships. Even if you are working on something that you don’t think is your passion, work hard – show up and do whatever needs to get done. People notice hard work and it can open doors for you. Be open to learning as much as you can from others; don’t assume you’ve learned everything about your specialty. Be open to opportunity - even if an experience isn’t your ideal choice, you never know where it may lead.
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
The office I work for, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, has developed a partnership with Ocean Exploration Trust to explore national marine sanctuaries. In 2019, OET was awarded a grant to focus exploration in sanctuaries on the US west coast. I was invited to participate in the expedition to Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary in October 2019.