Undergraduate Education: B.A. Biological sciences
Clemson University, 2007
Work experience before MLML?
I held various internships studying humpback whale behavior, benthic ecology and crustacean population stock enhancement during my time between schools. I also worked with a behavioral ecologist at Clemson studying octopus and lobster behavior in the Florida Keys.
Some questions for Sara:
Q: Why did you decide to pursue marine science?
A: I wanted to study abroad, and chose the cheapest program I could find at my university. Luckily for me, it was a semester living and studying in the Galapagos Islands, and of course after that, I was hooked on marine science!
Q: What experiences and opportunities have shaped your path to get you where you are now?
A: As an undergrad I learned it was really important to get to know faculty researchers and help out in their labs. I also took a year off after receiving my BA to travel around and experience different short-term jobs studying widely different areas within marine science. That helped me substantially whittle down areas of interest for grad school.
Q: What are you studying and why is it interesting and important to you?
A: I’m studying community interactions of macroalgae, or seaweed, in the rocky intertidal. I love this work because it enables me to crawl around on rocks and explore the amazing diversity of algae in this system, and to ask really interesting questions based on observations. I think it’s really important to study this system because it helps me hone my skills as an ecologist and it provides easy hands-on field experience.
Q: What are you hoping or planning to do when you finish?
A: I love the dirty and exhausting fieldwork of academic research, so Iwould love a job as an assistant researcher at an academic institution. But I also enjoy marine education and conservation, so my dream would be to have a career that would effectively marry active field research with education.
Q: What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of graduate school?
A: The most rewarding by far is constantly being surrounded by like-minded (and super smart!) people that continually challenge you and provide you with widely different opportunities to explore marine science. That is why I would love to remain in an academic setting after I graduate. What can be very challenging is balancing three different part time jobs with classes and thesis work – but, we’re all in the same boat here so we help each other through!
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to get in to marine science?
A: Volunteer! That’s how I started. I also got to know my professors in college and they often had contacts to get me really cool job opportunities. Do lots of research online looking for little summer fellowships at research institutions. One I highly recommend is the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program, funded by NSF. You get to work with a researcher hands-on all summer and you get paid! Its what really got my foot in the door. If you are still in high school, volunteering will probably be the way to go until you get to college.