Melissa Nehmens

Melissa NehmensName: Melissa Nehmens

Lab webpage : http://psrc.mlml.calstate.edu/

Hometown: Petaluma, CA

Undergrad: Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology with a Minor in S.T.E.M Education from University of California Santa Cruz 2011

Work experience before MLML: In my undergraduate career, I was a Research Assistant in a Biogeochemistry lab and CalTeach Intern as an assistant teacher in junior high and high school classrooms. Since graduating, I have been a TA for an upper division Ecology course at UCSC and I am currently a private math, science and writing tutor.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue marine science?

For a substantial portion of my adolescence, “why” was my favorite word and as early as I can remember I have been fascinated by the ocean and with the natural world in general. As I grew up going to the beaches in Northern California, I loved poking around the tide pools and I always wanted to know what the creatures that I saw were called. I think that is how it carried over into academics for me; I would use library time at school to research what I know now as anemones, sea urchins and sea stars. From there, I was hooked, I continually wanted to know more about the organisms within the ocean and the more I learned the deeper in love I fell with the whole idea of being a Marine Scientist. In high school I solidified that my love of the ocean could also be a career path for me. Since then I have had my sights set and here I am.

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

There were so many! Of course the usual childhood dreams and encouragement from my family and friends, but I would say there have been three experiences that really set me on my current path.  The first would be working in a biogeochemistry lab. I originally thought I wanted to work on climate change as it was and still is such an important topic, however, after working countless hours hunched over microscopes and in front of microscales, and not being able to go in the sun, just longingly stare at it through tinted windows, I realized a focus in Marine science that required the bulk of my time tohide in small dim rooms was not the right choice for me. The second would be the field quarter in Corsica, France that I got to go on with Dr. Raimondi and Dr. Bernardi at UCSC. There I got to develop and complete my own project from start to finish and I loved the amount of field work and hands-on opportunities I had. This experience definitely solidified that whatever I ended up doing had to involve a good amount of field work. The last would be interning in the PSRC, which is the lab I am now in as an MLML graduate student. It allowed me the opportunities to completely fine tune what exactly it was I wanted from a graduate school program and lead me to my current position.

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

I am studying deep sea sharks and aspects of their life history that will hopefully contribute to a larger knowledge base to provide accurate information for management plans and to the scientific community in general. I believe that studying sharks is important because there are so many species that have so little known about them that have the potential to disappear before there is even a chance to study them.  Additionally, looking at shark population health is indicative of so much more than just that individual population or species, it can provide information on the health of an entire ecosystem. I also just think they are fascinating creatures that tend to get a bad reputation and I would love to change people’s minds about them.

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

As of now, I hope to continue onto a PhD. My ideal future would incorporate research and teaching into my life in whatever capacity possible.

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

Since I have just started, I’m not quite sure! I could imagine the challenging parts would also be the most rewarding in that you are finally capable of taking complete control of your education and experimentation. It is both scary and exciting.

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

Do it! I guarantee you will never regret it. It has the potential to lead to so many paths outside of the traditional world of research, the ocean is a big place.

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