Stephen Pang

  Name: Stephen Pang

  Lab webpage: Ichthyology Lab

  Hometown: Palos Verdes Estates, CA

Undergrad: Biological Oceanography, University of Washington

Work experience before MLML:

A. After graduating at the University of Washington, I worked at a number of different fisheries-related positions. Immediately following graduation, I moved out to Ashahka, ID to work for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. While there, I worked as a field technician at two hatcheries: Clearwater Fish Hatchery and Dworshak National Fish Hatchery. I oversaw many of the day-to-day caretaking duties for the coho and Chinook salmon that we were raising there and also assisted with the release of said fish. I then accepted a position at Tacoma Power (a public utilities company in WA) where I worked extensively on the Cowlitz River. I examined the effect that hydropower dams had on the migratory behavior of coho and Chinook salmon. This involved releasing tagged smolt upstream and tracking them as they traveled through the recently installed fish passageway through the dam.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue marine science?

A: I first became interested in the ocean when I was growing up. As a kid in southern California, I was always in the water. Whether it was snorkeling, bodysurfing, or scuba diving, it felt like I spent more time in the water than I actually did on land. To me, pursuing a career in marine science just made sense.

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

A: Going in to college, I knew that I wanted to do something involving marine science but I didn’t really know what. I liked my oceanography classes but it didn’t really capture my interest like I had thought it would. In my senior year at the University of Washington though, I took a fisheries conservation class that I absolutely loved; it really sparked my interest in fisheries management and population ecology (something that I had not really thought about before). It was after this class that I knew I wanted to build a career that revolved around fisheries work.

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

A: I am studying how size-selective fishing affects the reproductive output of sex-changing fish. In particular, I’m interested in fish that change sex from female to male as they age (these are called protogynous hermaphrodites). When these types of fish are targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries, males tend to be disproportionately removed from the population (since most fisherman target the biggest fish, which in this case, are predominately male). This leads to fish populations that have lots of females and few males. I’m trying to figure out at what gender ratio do males become limiting to reproductive output. I find this area of research interesting because it is not something often accounted for in fisheries models.

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

A: My plan right now is to take a break from school and to work in industry or at a government agency for a few years. I’m sure that following my thesis here at MLML, a break from school would be nice. After that though, I’m not so sure. I could just continue working but I’ve also considered returning to academia and pursuing my doctorate. I have always wanted to teach and being able to dictate the direction of my own research is something that’s very appealing to me.

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

A: For me, I’d say that the most rewarding and challenging aspects of graduate school are the same thing. While you get plenty of help from your advisor, you and you alone are responsible for the vast majority of your thesis project. There isn’t a class to help you along as you do it. There are no regularly scheduled check-ups to see how things are going. You need to take charge and do it yourself. No one is there to hold your hand as you do it. If I successfully defend my thesis, I know that it’ll be incredibly rewarding knowing that I was the one that got myself to that point. With that said, it can be very challenging going about it by myself sometimes. All in all though, it’s been a joy so far and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.

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

A: Start doing research as early as you can, volunteer if you need to. Researchers can always use an extra hand. When you’re in college, work in someone’s lab. Ask graduate students if they need help with their thesis projects (spoiler alert: they will). Try to get as much experience as possible. Not only will this look great on your CV, but it will also: provide you with valuable experience (allowing you to learn information and skills that you might not learn in a classroom), will help you narrow down what you might want to focus on later in your career, and will help develop professional relationships (which you will need when you need someone to write you a letter of recommendation).


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