The Team

Ship Location

San Pedro, USA

Kelly Ferron

Photo of Kelly Ferron
Science Communication Fellow
Graduate Student
Bren School, UC Santa Barbara

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

I am a graduate student studying coastal and marine resource management. I spent the last year and a half working with a team of scientists to explore how climate-related ocean issues, such as ocean acidification, impact how we manage and protect our marine areas on the West Coast of the United States. I take classes in marine sciences, such as oceanography and ecology, as well as classes on coastal policy and economics. I seek to better understand the science behind these changes and then communicate this science to impacted coastal communities. This can be through policy changes, public education, and finding ways to engage communities with the environment right around them. Sometimes people don’t even know about the exciting creatures or plants in their backyard or they don’t know the benefits we receive from clean water, healthy oceans, and vibrant forests. 

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I’ve always loved the diversity of marine creatures—from crazy-colored nudibranchs to graceful sea lions and awkward guillemots. Through recognizing that the ocean is what allows all of us to live on this earth, I wanted to learn more about these creatures, explore more of the vast ocean, and ultimately work to find a way for humans to live in harmony with and in awe of the ocean. This recognition led me to work on policy to prevent plastics from entering the ocean, guide groups on kayaking expeditions through the Salish Sea, and return to graduate school to study how to make impactful change through education and policy.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My professor in college taught courses that simultaneously challenged his students academically, built community, and used experiential learning (like an awesome kayaking science course in Baja!) to encourage environmental leadership. He encouraged me to push myself in classes, adventure more, and experience the world!

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

The most fascinating part of my work and studies have been experiencing the awe of nature with others and how this can inspire and engage communities to make a change. Marine ecology is fascinating to me, but better yet are finding a hidden seastar with an elementary class while tidepooling or paddling near a pod of orcas. The more people understand and appreciate the world around them, the more engaged they can become to protect it. 

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I’ve had a lot of great opportunities that eventually led me back to graduate school. I worked in habitat restoration removing thorny blackberry bushes and planting native plants, worked for the local government to pass plastic bag bans, taught elementary school students about the intertidal zone, led tours of recycling centers, guided kayaking expeditions, and taught undergraduate biology courses. Each job taught me an entirely different skill—from learning science to understanding different communities and their values—and has encouraged me to pursue science communication as a career.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, Minor in Spanish Studies—Santa Clara University 2010;
Masters of Environmental Science: Coastal and Marine Resource Management, UCSB 2018

What are your hobbies?

I love sea kayaking, hiking, and getting outside to explore new ecosystems! I also love to travel and am in search of the world’s best burritos and donuts.

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

If something calls you, follow it. Some of the best skills I gained were in non-conventional settings, like backing packing solo through South America and leading kayaking expeditions. You can explore your passions in a lot of different ways and shift your focus as you continue to acquire skills. 

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?

I first heard about the Nautilus program after meeting with a woman from the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary office, where the Nautilus sailed in 2017 and will sail again in 2018. After hearing my interest in science communication, she encouraged me to apply and I was lucky enough to be chosen!