Tell us about your work / research. What kinds of things do you do?
I am interested in how organisms survive in environments we once deemed inhospitable. This includes the deep sea, chemosynthetic and polar environments. Particularly, I seek to understand the interconnectedness between microbes, microfauna and megafauna in hopes of elucidating what methods and pathways these organisms exist through. In example, in my Masters project I am attempting to quantify the dependence of a population of species, historically known to feed on photosynthetically derived nutrients, on a methane seep environment that they were discovered at. The results of this research have the potential to provide evidence that chemosynthetic environments may be able to serve as oasis for organisms in times of stress, a meaningful find when related to potential climate change impacts. As many of these environments are remote and harsh to humans it requires specialized equipment - from remotely operated vehicles and submersibles to advanced cold water diving gear.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
I truly believe that we are living in an amazing time in history, a time where our decisions and our actions can have a profound effect on the future of our species and our planet as a whole. Growing up on the Gulf Coast of Florida instilled a great love of the oceanic environment in my heart. I spent much of my free time at the beach, swimming around looking at the vast array of organisms and dreaming of the underwater world that existed past the horizon. I was in high school when the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill hit and shook that very ecosystem and the community surrounding it to its bones. First it was tar balls washing ashore and then it was deceased sea creatures that had succumb to the outpouring toxins. From that moment on I knew that I was going to devote my life to improving our understanding of the oceans, helping to develop effective management strategies for these diverse and poorly understood environments.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
Although it is slightly conventional, I was really inspired by reading stories of other successful female scientists such as Dr. Kathyrn Sullivan, Dr. Sylvia Earle and Sally Ride. As a kid I had all these fascinations but no knowledge of what to do with them - reading stories about women such as these showed me that almost anything is possible if you have your heart set on it and work hard enough.
What element of your work / study do you think is the most fascinating?
The places I get to go and the things I get to see, no matter if it is a shallow water dive or an expedition in the middle of the ocean I always get incredibly excited.
What other jobs led you to your current career?
During my undergraduate career I was fortunate enough to spend time in amazing and complex ecosystems with a diverse array of organisms, all with their own vital role in the dynamics of ecosystems surrounding them. From the developing countries I reheard in, Indonesia and America Samoa, I formulated a great understanding of the disparity that can exist between anthropogenic interactions with the environment and the ecological needs of the system. I dipped my toes into several different (but very related) fields including policy work through a legislative internship program, communication work through blogging and writing for the college newspaper, and ocean science work through working as a research assistant in laboratories. I began delving into the fascinating world of deep-sea ecology after attending a presentation on ocean exploration in Washington D.C. and was fortunate enough to work my way into a graduate program studying within this exciting field.
What are your degrees and certifications?
Bachelor of Science, Marine Biology - University of South Florida 2015; Bachelor of Science, Environmental Science and Policy - University of South Florida 2015; PADI Rescue Diver, AAUS Scientific Diver, Divers Alert Network First Aid and O2 provider
What are your hobbies?
I love running (just finished my first of hopefully many marathons), scuba diving, biking, hiking, backpacking, kayaking and cooking (although I think I enjoy the eating part much more than the cooking part).
What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?
If oceanography, marine biology, or exploration is for you my advice is to never give up! It is a competitive and tough field, but the rewards are plenty and if you work hard enough you will find success. Take advantage of resources that are both around you and accessible via web. Go to seminars, workshops and conferences. Know that there are always things to be learned and everyday seek to learn something new. Don't be afraid to ask questions (it is very true that the only bad question is the one that wasn't asked). Be confident in yourself and shoot for the stars (or the deepest depths of the ocean, in this case).
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
I was offered a position on the vessel to assist in the on-ship science and elatedly accepted the offer.