Kenji Soto

Kenji SotoName: Kenji Soto

Home Town:  I spent the majority of my childhood through high school in Salinas.  And now I am back!

Undergrad:  B.S. in Marine Biology, University of California Santa Cruz 2010

Website: http://benthic.mlml.calstate.edu/people/kenji-soto/

Work Experience before MLML:  My first job was as a pool attendant (not a life guard) where I spent the majority of my time doing crossword puzzles and reading, a great lazy summer job, but very unproductive career-wise.  During my last summer at college I was the Dive Intern at the Alaska SeaLife Center, where I learned how to dry-suit SCUBA dive and mostly cleaned large (able to house stellar sea lions) aquariums.  After graduating, I volunteered as a guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where I interpreted the exhibits for guests.  One of my favorite aspects of this opportunity was answering the most interesting questions about the ocean given to me by genuinely curious and enthusiastic elementary school kids.  Because I did not have very much laboratory experience, I also was helping a MLML graduate student in the Ichthyology Lab, Katie Schmidt, process her blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus) ovaries.  From late 2011 to this day, I have been working as a port sampler on the CRFS (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/crfs.asp) project for California DFW.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue marine science?

I love the ocean!  It is something that I have always been interested in since a very young age.  Whenever I see a large enough body of water I can’t help but fantasize about jumping in and seeing what lies beneath.  I love the fact that there is so much yet to be discovered in this field.  I am particularly interested in extremophiles because they can survive in incredibly hostile habitats, and that just fascinates me.

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

A big influence in my desire to study the ocean was being a part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Student Oceanography Club (SOC) in middle and high school. SOC provided a hands-on approach to marine science education and also brought in guest speakers to talk about their research.  To me, these presenters were like rock stars, and I wanted to be one of them.  And now, hopefully I will be!  With just my BS, I found that I was unqualified for many of the jobs that I wanted.  Because of this, I decided that I would need a graduate degree to reach my goals.

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

I will be studying the ecology of hydrothermal vents.  I am not exactly sure what my project will be.  Hydrothermal vents interest me because the organisms there are like no other creatures on earth.  The organisms must be able to tolerate extreme pressure, temperatures, and chemical concentrations.They belong to a system that does not involve energy input from the sun, but instead are chemosynthetic.  Many of the animals that live at vents are symbiotic with bacteria which can break down the chemicals from the vents into a usable form of energy.  I believe that it is important to study this system because the conditions at vents are very similar to the conditions of early earth.  Understanding these organisms can give us a better idea of how life began on earth.
SotoDiveQ: What are you hoping or planning to do when you finish?

I hope to work as a research assistant studying almost anything involving the ocean, but preferably something related to deep sea ecology, not necessarily just hydrothermal vents.  After doing that for a number of years, I would like to either go for a PhD or teach at the community college level.  I would also be interested in being a part of a program like SOC.

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

I have yet to see all of the challenges of graduate school.  But after my first week I can tell that I will need to commit significantly more time in my studies than I did for my undergrad.  One reward is that there are so many opportunities and people to learn from.  Students and faculty are always looking for help with field work (fun and valuable experiences that you should try to take advantage of!), which gives you a chance to see different projects and disciplines that you would not be able to see if  you only stayed in your lab.

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

Depends on the person’s age and what exactly they want to do.  If they are an adult, then I would say take some classes at the community college and find out what part of marine science they are interested in.  Getting AAUS Dive certified would also be a good step, not only would you get to experience marine science first hand, many new opportunities would become available to you.  Kids should try to find a program similar to SOC!  If none of those are available to you, then go explore the tide pools/rivers/forests/mountains/city and start making a journal of your observations of these amazing habitats!

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One Response to Kenji Soto

  1. Pingback: Kenji: Cruising with an ROV | The Drop-In to Moss Landing Marine Labs

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