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Diana Watters

Scientist Ashore
Research Fisheries Biologist
NOAA Fisheries

Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?

My research is focused primarily on fishes, corals, and sponges that live in rocky seafloor habitats in deep water off the U.S. West Coast. We collect data on these communities using underwater vehicles equipped with video cameras and sensors. I manage the databases that these data are housed in, and analyze the data to study fish, coral, sponge, and marine debris distribution, abundance, and composition relative to depth and habitat type. My studies contribute toward the conservation and management of these populations and their habitats.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I have always been fascinated by nature and animals. As a teenager I was inspired by Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey to become a wildlife biologist, and majored in wildlife management for my bachelor's degree in college. Through a series of temporary jobs in fisheries my career shifted and I got a masters degree in marine science with an emphasis on marine fishes.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey first influenced me by making me aware that women could study animals in the wild. My graduate professor and work mentors were very supportive and encouraged me the most.

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

I love being in the field observing nature directly. Over the course of my career I've been fortunate to spend lots of time in the field, surveying sport fish catches, herring in San Francisco Bay, and seafloor communities. Diving inside a submersible to 1,000 feet and viewing fishes directly in their habitats is one of my most thrilling experiences.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

Volunteer Aleutian Canada goose counter, temporary jobs as a sportfish surveyor, salmon tagging & carcass counting, herring spawn surveyor; graduate thesis on age & growth of a rockfish; permanent jobs as a marine sportfish survey leader, herring population researcher. Be open to lots of different opportunities to gain experience!

What are your degrees and certifications?

B.S. Wildlife Management, Humboldt State University 1981; Masters of Marine Science, Moss Landing Marine Labs, San Jose State University 1993.

What are your hobbies?

Horses, swimming, hiking.

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Be open to opportunities - volunteer and paid - experience is just as valuable as education and may introduce you to something you didn't know you'd like. Get a strong foundation in math (I wish I had!). Be willing to persevere and work hard (opportunities are hard to come by), and make connections.

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

I have participated as a scientist ashore in the past and this year was invited to help plan ROV dives and participate as a science watch team member as part of the EXPRESS collaboration with the NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.


Diana participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: