Scott Simon headshot photo

Scott Simon

Science Communication Fellow
REEF Director
Marine Science Institute-UCSB

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

I am the director of the Research Experience & Education Facility, aka The REEF. It is UCSB's teaching aquarium. I designed the facility and have designed and developed our education and outreach programs over the past 15 years. The goal is to use current, cutting edge research, being done at the University, to improve science literacy and inspire responsible Ocean stewardship. While the majority of our programming is for Pre-K-12, we also work with a lot of the undergraduate and graduate courses at UCSB, as well as other nearby colleges. The REEF is also open to the general public, so we also get to share with the community, at large, about things that are happening in their "front yard," the SB Channel. I teach science communication to the undergrads who work at the REEF, as well as the aquarium science that goes along with running and maintaining aquaria. In addition, I go out diving to collect many of the organisms we have in our aquaria and touch tanks. And, I get to do things like this being a part of the OET and explore aboard the Nautilus!

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I have had the great pleasure of growing up in SB. My grandparents taught me and my siblings to snorkel out at the Channel Islands when we were in preschool. My dad had my brother and me in tow collecting and cleaning sea birds during the SB Oil Spill-so much oil, so many birds. And, we spent every Sunday night, as a family, glued to the TV, watching the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. It was Cousteau's ocean exploration that set the hook for my life long passion for all things marine, and my father, a high school English teacher, and outdoorsman instilled a value for education and conservation. I grew up a block away from the SB Museum of Natural History and spent many of my childhood years sneaking into the Museum, swimming in the pools in Mission Creek, which runs thru the museum, catching crayfish, polliwogs and frogs, and checking out the trout with mask and snorkel! During my academic career at SBCC, and UCSB, I worked at our public aquarium, the Sea Center, as an aquarist/education coordinator. That is where I truly realized my passion for communication science.  

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

I'm sure you can see above, my family has been the most influential and encouraging. When we went somewhere-the beach, the mountains, lakes, the snow, the Channel Islands-we ALL went. I think I got my siblings, grandparents, and dad. I need to give a shoutout to my mom, too, she encouraged us to get outside, maybe for her sanity, as there were three of us, and she'd get right out there with us too!  

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

I get this question a LOT! And, I always answer the same-ALL of it! Perhaps, I could say, it's the diversity. Teaching one day, diving the next, fixing a pump the next. It's all just so cool to me.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

As I mentioned, my grandfather was a big influence. He worked in the trades, in heating and air conditioning. he had a cool garage and tinkered on cars. Took me to races. So, from a young age, I'd take things apart, just figure out how they worked and put 'em back together. I also played music. And, actually played in a "hairband" during the 80's in Hollywood. Worked as a carpenter. All of those things gave me the skills and experiences to do what I do. Some people miss the hairband connection-it gave me the confidence to communicate in front of a lot of people. No more big hair and spandex, mind you!

What are your degrees and certifications?

Associate of Arts in Biological Sciences-SBCC; Bachelor of Science in Ecology & Evolution-UCSB; Master of Science in Marine Science-UCSB (IP); Master Carpenter; AAUS Research Diver/Instructor; Man of the Year Award-Michigan!

What are your hobbies?

All things marine. Tinkering, restoring and driving my '69 Camaro ragtop. Gardening, and long walks on the beach...

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program?

I have always been fascinated with Ocean exploration. And, I feel like I've lead a very charmed life in the way things have turned out and where I wound up. I am a "Gaucho." I went to UCSB and work at UCSB. Dr. Bob Ballard is also a Gaucho, Five years ago, when the Nautilus was planning their mapping and exploration of the US west coast, he thought it would be good to connect with his alma mater. I have had the pleasure of being involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust and Nautilus ever since.

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

Go big, or go home! Explore, explore, EXPLORE!!! Get off your electronic devices, get outside, take things apart, do as many different things as you can. Look at, experience, as many different things as you can, in as many different ways as possible. Try and enjoy school more and stress about the test less!


Scott participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: