Undergraduate Education: BS Zoology & Marine Biology
Humboldt State University, 2005
Work experience before MLML?
As an undergrad at HSU I worked for the Housing Department as an RA and Assistant Coordinator, which did not leave any time for internships. However, because I studied abroad in Denmark, I earned an 18-month internship as the Science Program Assistant at Denmark’s International Study Program (DIS). During the internship, I learned about the administration of a school program and was a teaching assistant for all the marine biology classes. When I returned to the States, I worked in a quality control lab for a plant extracts company. I first worked as an HPLC technician for over a year and then was promoted to lab supervisor before resigning to study at MLML. Working in a corporate lab reinforced for me the need to understand chemistry and work efficiently.
Some questions for Kristin:
Q: Why did you decide to pursue marine science?
A: I love invertebrates! Considering around 97% of the world’s animals lack a backbone (vertebral column), the animal group called “invertebrates” is enormous in its diversity and weirdness. When I started as an undergrad, I wanted to study animal behavior in large mammals, specifically elephants. I only made it half way through Invertebrate Zoology before I was completely hooked on invertebrates. If you’re going to study invertebrates, you might as well do it in the marine system where the greatest variability exists. There are a few phyla that only exist in salt water.
Q: What experiences and opportunities have shaped your path to get you where you are now?
A: Ever since I was little, I’ve loved animals and playing outside. I started school at HSU to get a degree in zoology and eventually become an animal behaviorist. My dream was to one day study African elephants in the bush, but taking invertebrate zoology at HSU soon changed my mind. The Pacific Northwest has amazing tide pools that allow you a glimpse of the diversity and weirdness of the realm of invertebrates. Studying abroad in Denmark solidified my desire to work in the marine system. However, after living on an internship paycheck in Denmark, I did not have the finances to attend graduate school. I took a job in a quality control lab in order to beef up my bank account. Through this job I learned practical lab skills and how to do both HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) and TLC (Thin Layer Chromatography). I also learned that quality control was not the job for me. I wanted to conduct research and help advance science. This gave me the motivation to get back into school and follow my childhood dream of becoming a scientist.
Q: What are you studying and why is it interesting and important to you?
A: The short answer is that I’m studying invertebrate assemblages associated with rhodolith beds around Catalina Island. Now for everyone in the audience who is going “huh?” (don’t worry marine scientists do it to me too), here’s the long answer. Rhodoliths (Rhodo = red, lith = stone) are free-living calcified red algae (they look and feel like rocks) that form beds, that look like dark pink gravel beds in various locations all around the world. These small and very slow growing algae provide a habitat for various invertebrates to live in. The beds around various Channel Islands (off the coast of Los Angeles, CA), including Catalina, were only discovered less than 10 years ago and are still in the process of being mapped. Nothing is currently known about which invertebrates live in or use this habitat. My thesis deals with trying to sample and identify these invertebrates and start teasing apart why these animals live here. This study is important because we know nothing about this system and unless baseline data is collected we can’t conduct more advanced research. It’s also important because California is starting its Marine Protected Areas program. How can we protect a habitat we know nothing about?
Q: What are you hoping or planning to do when you finish?
A: When I finish at MLML, I’ll go on to get a PhD on the ecology of the rhodolith invertebrates. Eventually I’d like to be a college professor.
Q: What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of graduate school?
A: Successfully completing a challenge is always rewarding. For me personally, trying to figure out a thesis question was very challenging. At MLML we’re encouraged to generate original ideas, which can be tough, but once you figure it out and have everyone saying “that sounds awesome” it’s quite rewarding.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to get in to marine science?
A: It’s never too early nor too late to get your hands dirty. Volunteer! Grad students are always looking for free labor. If you’re in high school offer to help undergrads with their senior projects. If you don’t have the time to volunteer, then work on your critical thinking skills by reading papers from scientific journals.
Find Out More!
Check out Kristin’s research in the Invertebrate Lab:http://ichthy.mlml.calstate.edu/