Confessions of a Marine Biologist

 
what people think I'm doing at work all day....

what people think I'm doing at work all day....

 

I posted this photo a few years ago. I was on a dive trip with my besties in Grand Cayman. When I posted the photo on Facebook, I was flooded with comments that went kinda like this... "oh my god, your job is so awesome"

I laughed and responded that I wasn't working, but on vacation... I don't think my boss would be very happy if I was doing this on the clock. 

I actually get this a lot along with loads of questions about what I do, which is what prompted me to write this post.  So here are some confessions from a marine biologist....

 
  1. We prefer the title Professional Mermaid… kidding… kind of ha
     
  2. Not all marine biologists are created equally... there are tons of
    specialities in this field and just because I am a marine biologist
    does not mean I can tell you anything about whales other than
    that they are really big...ok I might know a little bit more than that
     
  3. Sharks are FRIENDS, not foes, and unfortunately, I rarely see them
     
  4. I do not spend my days frolicking with dolphins… or training them
     
  5. I am not always in the ocean, some days I am stuck behind a desk
    crunching numbers and writing reports
     
  6. Trigger fish are mean… really really mean
     
  7. I cry almost every time I dive… sometimes happy tears of gratitude
    and other times because I have to watch the reefs die before my eyes…
    and others because a trigger fish bit my face

Fun fact (and one I'm sure you already know), I’ve always been entranced by the sea. Always needed to be near it, always dreaming of it. But, for about 10 years I wouldn’t go in it. Following a near drowning incident as a young kid I was also terrified of it. 

I’ll never forget the moment I decided to become a marine biologist… I was 14, on a plane on my way back from a family trip. I was flipping through an issue of Surfer Magazine and I was completely mesmerized by a centerfold of a beautiful coral reef; the title read “International Year of the Coral Reef”. I read all about the mass bleaching event that left the reefs in peril and that was it. I looked at my brother who was sitting next to me on the plane and I said “I’m going to save the coral reefs” at which he laughed because neither of us could remember the last time I went in the ocean past my waist. 

Another confession, once I have a goal in mind I attack it full force. I was determined to reconnect with the ocean. How was I supposed to become a marine biologist if I couldn’t put my head underwater? From then on I spent my summers life guarding and teaching swim lessons at the local pool. I didn’t live close to the beach (about 3 hours) but I bought a surf board anyways… a 5’11” WRV potato chip that could barely keep my 100 lb petite self afloat. Needless to say, I was a very bad surfer… still am. I graduated high school top of my class and got into college… by the beach of course. Finished school and made my way down to the Sunshine State for even more school, got a couple of Master’s degrees, and eventually landed my dream job.

More confessions… this is the highlight reel. My original grad school plans were derailed, I was rejected from my dream job… a lot, I was broke, I held multiple jobs, I was discouraged, I worked horrible jobs, and I was laid off before I made it to where I am today.

Some days I am diving crystal clear water on beautiful reefs surrounded by fish and some of my closest friends and fellow mermaids… 

 
the good days

the good days

 

Some days I am diving in dark brown water near a storm water outflow telling myself that the big dark blog that just swam by me was one of my coworkers and not the Muck Monster…

 
where the muck monster resides

where the muck monster resides

 

And, some days I am sitting at my desk, my eyes are crossed and my hair is disheveled as I stare endlessly at my computer screen for hours trying to make sense of all the numbers in front of me…. wishing I was out in the ocean... even when it's freezing

 
freezing cold mornings with some of the mermaid crew 

freezing cold mornings with some of the mermaid crew 

 

But all of those days I am happy (even if it is just for a moment... seriously guys the Muck Monster is legit) because I am doing what I love and I am (or at least attempting to) making a difference in the world.

Here's a little glimpse... 

 
my view on the way down... and up 

my view on the way down... and up 

dats me... doing my thang 

dats me... doing my thang 

a little visitor 

a little visitor 

me and the crew probably trying to identify some macroalgae

me and the crew probably trying to identify some macroalgae

views from the reef

views from the reef

we are really serious about nearshore hardbottom mapping  

we are really serious about nearshore hardbottom mapping  

typical seagrass survey

typical seagrass survey

mermaid office

mermaid office

a lil friend trying to catch a ride on my head

always going yoga...

always going yoga...