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Career Profile: Marine Biologist

Investigating the career of a marine biologist

Hannah Lang

on 8 June 2011

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Transcript of Career Profile: Marine Biologist

Career Profile: Marine biologist by Hannah Lang Why Marine biology? I have considered being a marine biologist ever since I learned what the occupation was in Kindergarten. I lived on the ocean when I was little, and I grew up with a fascination of the sea and it's creatures, especially the unusual ones like sting rays and sea turtes that were prominent in my hometown in Florida. Though the salary is low and the work is hard, working on the ocean would be a dream come true. Wait...
what does a marine biologist do? Here is a video explaining the job of someone that uses marine biology daily in their job. http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/scientists/scientist49.html -Help the seafood industry with safe and sustainable choices for their consumers -Study marine bacteria to help improve modern-day medication Other than that, a marine biologist might do: -Research possible solutions to conservation issues (such as the Pacific Garbage Patch) The pros and the cons $alary When asked about the usual salary of a marine biologist or marine biology professor, Professor Jeffrey Levonton of Stony Brook University, NY says: Sciencebuddies.com says the median salary for a marine biologist is $58,300. Most marine biologists agree that the excitement of a passion for their job exceeds the disadvantage of low pay. "This is not easy to answer as the variation is great. If you were an average Ph.D. entering a university job these days as an assistant professor, you would earn a salary of ca. 45,000-65,000 USA dollars for the academic year and then could earn a summer salary as well, mainly from grants. Salaries of public school teachers are generally lower and the variation is great. Consulting firms start also in the 40s and above. The upper end is extremely variable but in universities, marine biologists' salaries usually correspond to the average for science professors. A full professor these days in a university is earning 65,000-100,000 and more for the academic year." Wait a second... Under what s.t.e.m. discipline does this fall? Marine biology and all careers concerning it fall in the "life sciences" section of the Science discipline of STEM, which makes up about 4% of new STEM jobs. Mainly, a Marine Biologist studies ocean life for a purpose, whether it be to get solutions to human problems or just increase our understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants. If you think a STEm career in marine biology might be right for you, there are skills that you must acquire and college courses you have to take. Here are some skills and values that are important. What should i do if i want to become a marine biologist? -Enjoyment of outdoor activities (especially swimming, hiking and diving) -Skills in building, designing and problem solving -A love of the sea and an interest in it's creatures -Good swimming and diving skills What about education? It really depends on which type of marine biologist you want to be, but there are some basic classes to get you started. High school: Marine Science (only offered in some schools, mainly those on the coast). Biology and AP Biology Chemistry and Physics Foriegn Languages (if you plan to travel) Writing (for scientific reports) Other things you could to to prepare: Visit an aquarium or study fish at a shore near you! This will prepare you for the hands-on experience of being a marine biologist. College: Marine biology Oceanography Biochemistry Computer courses are highly recommended A Ph.D is usually necessary A day in their flippers :) So... what's a typical day like for a marine biologist? Well this is a sample from a real marine biologist (thanks to http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070116191507AAA7DO5!) Field Work day 9:00 am – 9:30 am
Preparing equipment; organizing other scientists and students; walking from the field station to the beach; putting on scuba gear; assigning tasks.

9:30 am – 10:30 am
Collecting animal samples underwater (could be fish, crabs, clams, mussels, aphids, etc.).

10:30 am – 11:00 am
Organizing samples; taking a break.

11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Collecting more samples.

12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Organizing samples; walking back to the field station; placing samples in tanks; eating lunch with other scientists.

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Doing data analysis on the computer.

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Setting up a laboratory experiment.

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Tagging animal samples for a lab experiment.

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Monitoring the results of a feeding experiment from the previous day.

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Working on the computer, writing a research paper. Teaching 9:00 am – 10:00 am
Preparing to teach a class.

10:00 am – 11:00 am
Teaching a class of undergraduate students (lecturing and answering questions).

11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Meeting with students to discuss their projects and papers.

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Doing aerobics.

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Eating lunch; reading scientific papers.

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
In my molecular laboratory, meeting with graduate students; discussing ongoing experiments.

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Setting up a PRC experiment (i.e. getting ready to perform a chemical analysis of an animal’s DNA).

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Pouring gel to be used in the DNA analysis.

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Loading PRC samples onto the gel.

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Photographing the samples.

9:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Preparing for a class the following day. Marine biologists need to know a lot about: Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math Where would I work if I were a marine biologist? Well, it all depends on what you want to study and what type of marine biologist you want to be. If you want to study coral reefs, you may work on the coast in a tropical area, and probably in a lab conducting research with samples.. If you want to study whale migrations, you would probably work in water off the coast of somewhere cold like Alaska. If you want to become a marine biology professor, you would work at a college or university (and go through a lot more school). And if you wanted to apply your marine biology skills to another occupation, like an aquarist, you would work in-you guessed it- an aquarium What is a Marine Biologist's work style? A marine biologist's work style varies greatly depending on what time of year it is. The summer is usually the time for field work, which involves lots of careful planning for collecting samples. Or they could be quietly spending a day conducting private lab experiments. It all varies depending on what's going on. Technology and Tools What types of things would I use if I were a marine biologist? Microscope Computers (for keeping records and files) Cameras Various lab equipment Scuba diving equipment Cons Not a lot of $$$ Hard work Sunburn!! Rewarding work Working in a field you are passionate about Working with "some of the most beautiful creatures on Earth" Working outside Pros So it's up to you.... Do the costs outweigh the benefits? An interview with dr. nancy knowlton... director of center for marine biodiversity & conservation at scripps institution of oceanography *pant, pant* What is a marine biologist? A marine biologist is someone who studies the ocean and it's animals, most of the time to help improve how we live. Algebra and Calculus Deborah: Did you always know you wanted to be a marine biologist? Nancy: "No, but I've always been a 'science junkie'. My first science love was really astronomy. My parents had gotten me a nice telescope when I was little, and I used to spend a lot of time looking at the planets. Then in the tenth grade I took a biology course with a really wonderful teacher, and that's what turned me in the direction of biology rather than astronomy or other sciences." Could you describe what your work is about? I study coral reefs, so at least once a year, and hopefully more often, I go out in the field somewhere in the Carribean,usuually in Panama, and study coral spawning. Coral reefs undergo what is called 'mass spawning' where all of the different colonies release their eggs and sperm simultaneously once a year. This is a 'mega event' and it's very interesting biologically, so I go and study that because, although coral reefs are famous in the public eye, we actually know relatively little about the organisms that live there... we don't have a real sense of what we're losing as reefs become more and more degraded." What do you do when you get back from field work? "I define the nature of the project, organize it, raise the money, and do a certain amount of field work. Then I organize the work, and at the end I'm usually the one that writes the papers that come ou of the research.[Nancy also spends her busy days directing the conservation center, raising funds, developing new programs and handling administrative duties]" Nancy says she is runing about 15 projects at once and she must juggle many tasks to keep them all afloat and supervised. And while she says the traveling is exciting (in the past eight months she has been to Honduras, Taiwan, Panama, Japan an Germany), it can be draining. What do you really love about your work? The core of what makes science fun is finding out something that you didn't know before. For a while i was working with a guy name Rob Rowan in guam on the diversity of the little single-celled algae inside coral that are responsible for the productivity of reefs. In earlier work Rob had figured out that there were a lot of different speices, and we were working on a project to understand what controlled all this diversity, and why you find some types in one place and different types in another.
"While we were in Guam, there was a major 'bleaching' event, which occurs when the water gets too hot and the whole symbiosis between these algae and the coral breaks down, so we went out there to figure out what was going on. It was amazing because we could look at the reefs and realize that the bleaching was differentially affecting the different types of algae...It was almost like having a whole jigsaw puzzle in a box, shaking it up, and then throwing it on the ground and having it land assembled. It was a classic eureka moment.
"It's also great when you've worked hard on a project and you send it out for review and it comes back and it's been funded. Or if you give a lecture and people are really receptive and enthusiastic; that always feels good.Just feeling like you're making a contribution is a great feeling." Any career advice? "Always make sure you enjoy what you're doing. You spend and awful lot of your life working, and if you love what you do, it doesn't really feel like work.
Focus on the goal you're heading for, especially if what you're doing at the moment is frustrating
Take your studies seriously and get into the best college or university you can." Anything you'd like to say? "I don't consider myself in the ranks of Einstein or Charles Darwin, but in a more modest way, i've made a major contribution to marine biology, and to the institutions I've worked at. It's funny, some people are really driven by recognition...but what really drives me is the sense of doing something that will make a difference in a hundred years from now."
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