Hometown: Too many to count! My dad was in the ARMY so we moved a lot. But most recently, I moved to California from Pennsylvania.
Undergraduate education: BA Journalism, Duquesne University, 2006
Work experience before MLML:
I have so many jobs! I work for a coastal engineering company in Santa Cruz playing with mud and monitoring marine mammals; with SWFSC conducting aerial surveys for marine mammals and sea turtles; and with a nonprofit consulting company helping nonprofits launch successful capital campaigns. Gotta’ pay the bills! When not at work, I am learning or playing in the ocean. I recently finished Passive Acoustic Technician Training, Helicopter Underwater Egress Survival Training, and the Motor Boat Operator Training Course.
I previously worked as a blogger and copy editor for the personal finance start-up, Mint, which was acquired by Intuit in 2009. I also wrote for San Jose Magazine. In Pittsburgh, I was the director of marketing and administration for the Entrepreneurial Studies Program in Duquesne University’s School of Business. In another life I worked as a waitress at a truck stop diner. Great stories there!
I have volunteered with The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito since 2010 on the stranding rescue team, and I am a BeachCOMBERS volunteer. I am an oiled wildlife volunteer for the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. I have also volunteered at The California Academy of Sciences in the Invertebrate Zoology Department and at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies with Dr. Sarah Cohen. I even volunteered at the Erie Zoo as an animal dietician and petting zoo docent.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue marine science?
A: The ‘why’ is easy. Marine science was always my dream. As a kid I was fascinated with the ocean. I’d spend countless hours at the library immersed in books I could barely lift, let alone understand. I knew that it would be a part of my life in one way or another. Given the option I can’t think of why any one wouldn’t want to pursue it.
But the interesting part is how I got there. When people asked me what I wanted to do with my degree in journalism I would tell them that I was going to write for National Geographic one day. I even started taking science classes while finishing my B.A. with the expectation that I would go on for a master’s in marine science — you can’t write for National Geographic without knowing something about science!
But as it were, western Pennsylvania didn’t have a lot of options when it came to studying marine mammals. When I moved to California, I discovered Moss Landing. It was like discovering some great secret. It was perfect for me. So I spent the past three years (even summers!) taking all the possible classes that someone with an undergraduate in biology might have taken. I volunteered everywhere. I met tons of scientists all over the Bay just to explore my options and network. After three years I crossed my finger and applied.
Q: What experiences and opportunities have shaped your path to get you where you are now?
A: Even when I was doing things completely unrelated to marine science I felt that it taught me skills that I will use at Moss Landing. My undergraduate degree prepared me for a lifetime of writing. Working in an entrepreneurial school taught me about sacrifice and dedication. My job with the nonprofit consulting company taught me about grant writing and fundraising. I will use everything I have learned outside of marine science to succeed in the program and I think that is important for success.
Q: What are you studying and why is it interesting and important to you?
A: I am studying the risk of ship strikes along the coast of California. Part of this includes looking at how humpback whale dive behavior might be affected by the presence of large commercial vessels. Tagging is set to start this summer. Stay tuned!
Q: What are you hoping or planning to do when you finish?
A: It’s too early to say. I will either work for a governmental agency like NOAA or a nonprofit, or go into a Ph.D. at Scripps Institution of Oceanography or Duke University. But I am leaving it open for whatever adventure comes my way.
Q: What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of graduate school?
A: The most rewarding is the most challenging. It is plunging into the unknown, learning new things, thinking critically and accepting that you will make mistakes.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to get in to marine science?
A: Get involved with as much as you can, even if it seems unrelated to your specific interests. Learn to drive a boat. Learn to drive a truck. Take scuba diving lessons. Take classes on the side. I suggest GIS classes and even computer sciences class (yes, you need them). Get out and meet people in the field you want to be in. Get to know them and their research. Ask them for advice. Get involved in their projects. Most importantly: volunteer and network!