Marley Parker headshot photo

Marley Parker

Video Engineer & Documentarian
ML Parker Media

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

I am a photographer, videographer, and science writer. I specialize in helping scientists and research institutions tell stories about their efforts to explore and conserve the wonders of our natural world. I travel constantly and enjoy working in some of the most remote, bizarre, and beautiful places on the planet. From deep waters in the North Pacific to shallow seas near the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef to icy passages around the Antarctic Peninsula, I have joined over a dozen major research expeditions since 2015. 

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I chose to major in Journalism in college because I have always enjoyed documenting the world around me, whether through writing or photography. While I was in journalism school, I took a few video classes, which proved invaluable when it came time to find a job after college. Looking back, it seems a bit inevitable that a life-long love of storytelling coupled with a keen "adventurous spirit" would lead me to the fascinating field of science communications.  

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

Before I started my own business last year, I spent several years working in the Office of Research Communications at UNC-Chapel Hill. My supervisor there (a former director at NASA) was one of the most intelligent and tenacious people I've ever met. Highly perceptive and doggedly loyal, she was unwavering in her support of my endeavors. As a young woman working in male-dominated environments, I dealt with varying degrees of uncertainty and self-doubt. Having a strong female mentor made all the difference.

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

Working in the ocean never ceases to fascinate, mystify, and humble me. During a recent trip to the Florida Keys (to document coral reef conservation efforts) I was filming a large school of fish when a massive spiny lobster came out from under a rock and reached its long antennas towards my camera lens. The lobster's curiosity made for some amazing footage, but more importantly, reminded me what an honor and privilege it is to document the underwater world. 

 What other jobs led you to your current career?

The most defining experience of my career occurred in January of 2015 when I was asked to join a geophysical research expedition on a volcano in southern Chile. Before that time, I had accompanied scientists in the field briefly (mostly working in coastal North Carolina) but this was my first major international expedition. Spending 10 days hiking up and down a volcano and learning about the inner workings of our planet changed the trajectory of my life. From that point forward, documenting expeditions (the wilder, the better) has been my prerogative. 

What are your degrees and certifications?

B.A. in Journalism - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 2010; PADI scuba diver, FAA 107 licensed drone pilot, Wilderness First Responder

What are your hobbies?

I feel lucky that travel and adventure are a regular part of my life, both professionally and personally. When I'm not at sea, I'm usually in the mountains with a couple of adventurous friends (hiking, mountaineering, rock climbing, backpacking, or snowboarding.) On the rare occasion that I get to spend a few days at home, I enjoy cooking homemade meals and seeing local, live music. 

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program?

In 2018, I spent over 100 days living and working at sea and loved every minute of it. At All Hands on Deck (the 2018 National Ocean Exploration Form), I had the opportunity to meet a few team members from the Ocean Exploration Trust. After chatting for a few minutes, they said my skill sets and experience would be a valuable addition to the Nautilus Exploration Program. I'm thrilled to officially join the team! 

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

Being an expedition photographer/videographer requires much more than knowing how to use a camera. You need to be able to say yes to some pretty crazy requests and be comfortable working in less-than-ideal circumstances. As much as you can, you need to adopt a "go with the flow" attitude and always strive to be a team player. You should also recognize that this industry will require you to learn new skill sets, software programs, and technologies throughout your career (for example, if you had told me when I was taking photography classes 10 years ago that a big part of my job would involve flying drones, I would not have believed you!) Grab your gear and hang tough - it's a wild (but very rewarding) ride.