Catherine Drake

DSC_0838 Hometown:  Yorba Linda, CA

 Undergraduate education: B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Irvine in 2010

 Work experience before MLML:

I’ve worked at Disneyland, the Summer Session office at UCI, Nichols Institute of Quest Diagnostics and most recently at Travelex Foreign Currency.

 Q: Why did you decide to pursue marine science?

 A:  The moment that “sealed the deal” for me was on a fifth grade field trip to Crystal Cove State Beach during a very low tide.  I wandered on the rocks of the intertidal zones in awe for hours.  Since then, studying marine ecosystems was never far from my mind, and now it’s a reality!

 Q: What experiences and opportunities have shaped your path to get you where you are now?

A:  Growing up, my parents would take me to the beach and teach me the wonders of the oceans.  As a result, my parents shaped me into becoming compassionate about protecting the oceans and marine organisms.  One opportunity that really taught me the importance of habitat protection and species conservation was the research I took part in during my undergraduate studies at UCI.  I did research at a freshwater marsh that was home to many endangered plant and animal species, and without that experience, I would never have properly appreciated all the ecological complexities within a habitat.

Diving in Bluefish Cove in Pt. Lobos State Reserve during the Subtidal Ecology field course at MLML. Photo by: Sarah Jeffries.

Diving in Bluefish Cove in Pt. Lobos State Reserve during the Subtidal Ecology field course at MLML. Photo by: Sarah Jeffries.

Q: What are you studying and why is it interesting and important to you?

A:  For my thesis, I’m trying to understand the evolution of the behavior of decoration in the local Majid crabs.  These crabs have bulbous carapaces and long legs, and for these reasons are commonly known as spider crabs.  They have hooked bristles on their appendages and carapaces, called setae, that allow the crabs to attach items from their environment to their bodies to camouflage themselves and avoid predation.  Each of the Majid crab species have varying amounts of setae cover and different setae types, and for this reason I decided to focus my study on Loxorhynchus crispatus, also known as the masking crab or the moss crab, because they have the highest amount of setae on their bodies. I’d like to determine whether these decorator crabs exhibit non-random choice when selecting items to cover themselves. I’m also looking at the community assemblage on the carapaces of Loxorhynchus crispatus to determine whether living on a crab’s carapace is at all beneficial for these sessile invertebrates, which are filter feeders.

A decorator crab, Loxorhynchus crispatus, clings onto a Pterygophora californica. Photo by: Gabriela Navas.

A decorator crab, Loxorhynchus crispatus, clings onto a Pterygophora californica. Photo by: Gabriela Navas.

Q: What are you hoping or planning to do when you finish?

A:  I would like to hopefully get into the work force after I complete my Master’s, and either work in a lab or in the field. Or both!

Q: What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of graduate school?

A:  The most challenging aspect of graduate school is definitely time management.  The most rewarding aspect of graduate school is being able to take classes with other people who are as passionate about marine science as I am.  It is really refreshing to know that there are others as interested in the oceans as myself.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to get in to marine science?

A:  If you are interested in getting into marine science, then I would definitely advise that you get involved in research.  Personally, I have research experience both in the lab and out in the field, so from that experience I now know that I like doing research in both these environments.

Start taking notice of patterns, making observations, and asking questions.  Even just in your everyday life, and then expand to marine environments.

Also, I would just say spend time at the beach!  Take a trip to tide pools, go to an aquarium and go snorkeling or diving!  These basic steps will help build a foundation of knowledge that will allow you to pursue marine science.

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