Do you have questions for a marine biologist?
Send them as an email (subject: ask a marine biologist).
To read samples of previous questions and answers, see comments below or click here: “Ask a marine biologist”
(Note – I used to accept questions as comments on the webpage but now I recommend sending as an email.)
Question topics in the past have included career choices, marine life identification, deep oceans, coastal ecosystems, coral reefs, sounds, current events, and information for school assignments.
Please review these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. What inspired you to become a marine biologist?
Music, actually. I was very interested in sound, which led me to be interested in bioacoustics and I did my senior project in college on snapping shrimp. That is when I decided to focus on marine biology, which is all about life in the ocean that live in a ‘world of sound’ because marine ecosystems are so dependent on sound. Sound travels four times faster in water than in air! Marine animals use it for communication, defense, navigation, even ‘sight’ through echolocation. (Looking back, I can see earlier signs that marine biology was a good fit for me. I was fascinated by the beach, and aquariums. I remember as a kid spending several hours watching a crab walk around in circles!)
2. What education is needed to become a marine biologist? What education have you completed?
There are few marine biology jobs that are actually labeled “marine biologist.” There are many types of marine biology jobs and it depends what you want to do. Maybe you want to lead SCUBA nature tours, or manage fish stocks, or film documentaries, or consult with aquariums, or influence science policy. Most marine biology job seekers would benefit from not only a high school education but also a college education in a related field – it could be marine biology, or it could be biology, physics, ecology, etc. Further specialization with a masters would probably be beneficial. There are two main types – research based (usually an Master of Science), and not research based i.e. class based. If you want to work in academia, and/or lead your own research programs, and/or be a part of shaping the field not just working in the field, you might want to consider a doctorate degree (PhD). You can get a masters first after college, or go straight to a PhD program.
For undergraduate (college) I have a BS in Biology with a minor in physics. For graduate school, I have a MS in Marine Biology, and a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience. Along the way I also picked up a Masters in Psychology. Eleven years of school after high school is not for everyone, but it was a good path for me. Between my MS and PhD I did a fellowship in Mexico.
3. What is a usual day for you?
My days are different since the quarantine. Most of my work with colleagues is now by zoom. My research is on hold since I cannot get to my field sites. My work is a combination of science research, marine renewable energy, science-art collaborations, and conservation.
4. What advice would you give to people who want to become marine biologists?
Follow your interests, read, talk to people, get involved.
5. What is your favorite marine species?
All marine species are interesting, and within species, every organism is an individual. It’s truly amazing to work with creatures of all kinds. Snapping shrimps are real characters and so are dolphins.
6. What research would you love to conduct?
My dream research project is to (continuously) record the sounds of the reefs of the world.
7. What is this thing I found on the beach/in the water?
Feel free to email it to me, I may or may not be able to answer it myself and may ask a colleague. If you think it is or was alive, you can also try the app iNaturalist which is a citizen science tool for identifying and tracking sightings of different organisms.