Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?
I am passionate about marine ecology and community outreach. Currently, I work as an independent consultant and have had the opportunity to work on some exciting projects. I review and edit science articles for Parley for the Oceans (an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the ocean and supporting innovation to reduce threats like marine debris). I recently started collaborative projects to create educational and outreach content for non-profit organizations, such as, Sustainable Coastlines Hawai'i and Leap Lab. I enjoy creating content that engages the general public and helps foster a love for the ocean and its resources.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
Growing up near the ocean in southern India, I was always drawn to it. I spent hours exploring coastal marine habitats and tide pools. I enjoyed watching documentaries about life in the ocean and marveled at its diversity! As my fascination continued to grow, I decided to pursue a degree in marine biology. In college I took classes in marine ecology and conservation, which led me to pursue a graduate degree as well. In graduate school, I studied the ecology of deep-sea fish. It was then that I realized how little we know about deep-sea communities and was thrilled for a chance to learn more. During this time, I discovered I was also passionate about communication and wanted to be a voice for the ocean.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
I am fortunate to have a network of supportive family, friends, and peers. I am also grateful for the mentors, particularly, female scientists and educators who have and continue to inspire me to be myself!
What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?
The most fascinating aspect of my work is collaborating with innovative and driven individuals. I love working on projects that allow me to find ways to make science engaging and accessible to people.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
My interests in marine biology and communication have led to fantastic and diverse work experiences. I've held many positions that have helped me grow and discover new opportunities. I've conducted baseline fisheries surveys in estuaries, worked as a kayak tour guide, conducted fecundity studies on commercially valuable fish in Central America, conducted coral reef surveys in the Pacific, lead beach cleanups, raised awareness about marine debris, taught at community colleges, zoos, and aquariums, managed an education program for a non-profit, led students on international study abroad trips to explore tropical marine ecosystems and volunteered as a yoga instructor. I truly believe that each of these experiences has taught me valuable skills and lessons about growing as an individual and a professional.
What are your degrees and certifications?
Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology -- Florida Institute of Technology 2010; Masters of Science in Marine Biology -- Florida Institute of Technology 2013. I am also a certified SCUBA and scientific diver, as well as a yoga instructor!
What are your hobbies?
I love hiking and exploring with my dogs, swimming, diving, surfing, fostering shelter dogs (and hiking with them too!), photography, reading, writing, and baking banana bread!
What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?
If you are interested in a career in marine biology, I recommend exploring as much as you can, whether it is in your own backyard or out in nature. Keep an open mind and speak to those who could become mentors or advisers. Volunteer at non-profit/government institutions or university laboratories to learn about different research projects and develop new skills. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Be curious and willing to explore!
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
I applied for the Science Communication Fellowship in 2018 after learning about it through Nautilus' social media channels. After an exciting expedition exploring the Lo'ihi Seamount, I could not wait to return. Little did I know, I would be invited to participate again -- as a Lead SCF during the California Borderlands expedition. In 2019, I applied to return as part of the Science team. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to communicate science and conduct research aboard E/V Nautilus!
Mugdha participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: