Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?
I am a marine biologist and informal educator. I love teaching students about the ocean and aim to inspire them to become stewards of our ocean. My current focus is raising awareness about marine debris (trash in the ocean), specifically plastic pollution through K-12 education and community outreach. I visit classrooms and talk to students of all ages. I create interactive programs, presentations., and activities to help students, teachers, and the general public understand the issue of plastic pollution while providing achievable solutions, such as refusing single-use plastics, switching to reusable items, participating in beach clean-ups, educating and inspiring others. I also conduct citizen-science based projects to monitor marine debris washing up on Hawaii's coastlines.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
I grew up near the ocean. As a child, I spent hours exploring coastlines and tide-pools. I have always been fascinated by the natural world and wanted to learn more about it. I attended college for marine biology and started volunteering to conduct research. I truly enjoyed the experience of conducting research on fish ecology. After graduating, I worked as an aquarist and environmental educator which sparked my interest in communication and outreach. After completing graduate school, where studied deep-sea Antarctic fish, I continued teaching at formal and informal institutions while conducting citizen-science based research. I have continued doing so over the last few years and enjoy communicating ocean science.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
My family has been my greatest source of encouragement. I have also been fortunate to work with advisers who have inspired me to explore more about the ocean.
What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?
While I wouldn't exactly call marine debris fascinating, it is interesting to see how far trash travels and reaches coastlines thousands of miles away. We only recently starting to learn about possible patterns which can help us prevent trash from ending up in the ocean. Something that I do find fascinating is discovering new ways to reduce my consumption of plastic and finding alternatives!
What other jobs led you to your current career?
I've held many positions that have helped me grow and discover new opportunities in the fields of ocean science and communication. I've worked as a fish ecologist studying tropical fish communities, worked with artisanal fishermen, conducted coral reef surveys, lead beach cleanups, taught at community colleges, zoos, and aquariums, and now, a non-profit organization. These positions have opened up opportunities for me to study science and communicate information through public outreach, presentations, social media, and K-12 education.
What are your degrees and certifications?
Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology- Florida Institute of Technology, Masters of Science in Marine Biology- Florida Institute of Technology, American Academy of Underwater Sciences-Scientific Diver, PADI Rescue Diver
What are your hobbies?
I love hiking and exploring with my dogs, swimming, diving, surfing, fostering shelter dogs (and hiking with them too!), photography and baking banana bread (my quite proud of my banana-bread-baking skills!)
What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?
If you are interested in a career in marine biology, I recommend exploring as much as you can-whether is it in your backyard or out in nature. Be curious and willing to explore. Volunteer at non-profit/government institutions or university laboratories to learn about different research projects. While in school, it is important to learn skills that can be applied to studying marine ecosystems, such as, biomechanics or genetics or ecological modeling. Keep an open mind and speak to those who could become mentors or advisers. Remember, you may face challenges but keep going and moving forward! If you are also interested in science communication, stay positive and be enthusiastic to speak to people and inspire them to learn more.
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
I applied for the Science Communication Fellowship after learning about it through NautilusLive's social media accounts.