Drew Burrier


For more information, check of Drew’s profile on MLML’s Physical Oceanography webpage

Hometown:  Stow, Ohio

Undergrad: Bachelors of Science in Psychology from the University of the South, Sewanee, TN 2007

Work experience before MLML:
Dolphin Trainer at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL and Moosejaw Mountaineering Company


Q: Why did you decide to pursue marine science?

This doesn’t feel like it was a choice. Like most people that end up in this field, there was only one career option for me: Marine Scientist. It wasn’t always clear what that would entail, and there were certainly some bends in the road along the way, but destiny (if there is such a thing) is the simplest answer.

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

I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived all over the country, and to have worked some very meaningful internships that have shaped my career trajectory. The most important was probably the summer I spent working at the American Museum Of Natural History in New York City. I worked with Sal Cerchio (ironically a MLML Alumnus) helping the Cetacean Conservation and Recovery Program on various projects. This experience opened my eyes to what it meant to be a career scientist, and how rewarding a life that could be. The second most important was sailing from the Aleutian Island of Unalaksa, to California across the Gulf of Alaska aboard the good ship R/V Pt. Sur. It was here that a lifelong love of the sea was put to the test and proven, as well as being my first oceanographic cruise.

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

I study Internal Waves, which are massive waves that exist under the surface of the ocean. They break just like surface waves do, and submarine canyons seem to be hotspots for breaking internal waves. Where and when they break, internal waves can mix up the entire water column, bringing cold nutrient rich water up to the surface and driving bioproductivity. I am totally enamored with the idea that places in the ocean where fish, sharks, and whales are can be determined by unseen waves breaking underwater.

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

I love oceanography, and would love to end up at a place like MBARI where I would get to study the unknown parts of the ocean on a daily basis. I’ve also found an appreciation for sharing my passion for oceanography through teaching, and could see myself doing that too.

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

For me they are one and the same. Learning new skills and using them to solve problems. For all of the reasons that I love this field, the one that keeps me going is the ability to keep pushing my own boundaries. My worst grade in high school was physics. And now I’m a physical oceanographer. There is no greater personal satisfaction than taking something that you are bad at and making it something that you are good at.

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

Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

If there is something in life that you want to do, that you have to do with your life, DO IT. I have failed more ways than one on my journey to graduate school, and I will likely do it some more before I reach the peak of my career, but I have learned that each individual failure build me into a better scientist.

Also learn to program.