Peter Slattery

Year finished at Moss Landing: 1980

Lab while at Moss Landing: Invertebrate

Undergraduate education:  B.S. in Wildlife Management, Humboldt State College, 1965

Current job position and location: Researcher/Restoration Ecologist at Moss Landing Marine Labs

Contact information:

Some questions for Peter:

Q:  Why did you decide to pursue marine science/come to Moss Landing?

A: Serendipity. I was not sure what to do when I graduated, but the Peace Corps looked (and was!) good.  When I returned a friend got me a job working in the Aleutians where I became interested in the ocean and a fellow researcher told me about a little marine lab near my home in the San Francisco Bay area, MLML, and graduate school seemed a fun way to further pursue my interest in biology.

Q:  What did you do your thesis on and why do you find it interesting/important?

A: I was extremely lucky – I had learned how to scuba dive in the Aleutians as part of my job and had become curious about the small invertebrates I saw there. Here at MLML an energetic fellow grad student was very curious about sand bottoms, so curiosities and abilities matched: we needed to dive and to know the animals.  He was the driving force and I was very helpful to him in doing the work of sampling the sand bottom; there we learned about how animals live in sand. (Remember that sand and mud cover most of the earth, and so whatever animals are there and what they do is very important, from feeding gray whales and walruses to being a measure of what our pollution is doing to the oceans.)

Q:  What did you go on to after graduation?

A:  Continued  research in marine ecology, and later applied my undergraduate knowledge to terrestrial restoration.

Q:  What do you do now (if different from above?)  Please describe your job and the highlights/challenges of your work.

A:  My job is highly varied but usually has to do with understanding the biology/ecology of someplace, from sand and mud bottoms affected by sewer outfalls either operating or planned, to what gray whales or walruses or icebergs are doing to the ocean bottom when they tear it up looking for food.  How many weed pests are invading an area and what  will they do, be it the rocky intertidal, the sagebrush plains of the Great Basin, or oak woodland?  What happens to an oak woodland when a house or bunch of houses is built in or on it?

Q:  What’s the best thing that you took away from MLML?  How did your time at MLML prepare you/influence you for what you do now?

A:  Great travels – I have seen a lot of the world through the eyes of an ecologist/biologist. That has given me insight into what people are doing to my planet and my home.

Q:  What would you do if you could do anything differently?

A:  Pay more attention to everything around me.

Q:  What advice do you have for someone who wants to go into marine science and/or graduate school?

A: Go to the ocean, aquarium, watch the good ocean specials on TV, learn to scuba and surf, go on whale-watching tours, if you are prone to seasickness learn to prevent it through hypnosis (I am not kidding!), walk the beach, look at waves, read interesting books – about Polynesian navigating, for example, or Antarctic explorers like Shackleton, learn how the ancients traveled the oceans, and what the oceans looked like before man took over.

Q:    What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a career like yours?

A: Educate yourself – take basic science college classes, not the easy ones, don’t believe everything, but learn all you can while in school; figure out how things around you make more sense with classroom knowledge, and where classroom knowledge needs more common sense.  Look at rocks all the time when you take geology, look at all the plants everywhere when you take botany. Talk with people, young and old, who have similar interests. Feed your curiosity. Look around you, see details, remember things, learn to draw and draw to help you see.

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