Marine Biologist – Careers in Science and Engineering

LIVELY MUSIC My name is Ayana…. and
this is my office. AYANA: I decided to become a
marine biologist because I
fell in love with the ocean when I was about 5 in the
Florida Keys when I first saw coral reefs. I thought
they were fascinating. NARR: Ayana is working toward
her PhD at the Scripps
Institution of Oceanography. She hopes to help preserve
the corral reels for future
generations by studying how fishing practices affect the
ecosystems of the reefs. AYANA: I guess the most
rewarding thing about being a marine biologist for
me is the opportunity
to have a real impact on conservation of
marine resources. AYANA: Scripps has an amazing
collection of fishes. There are over 2 million specimens in
the collection, representing over 5000 species of fish from
all over the world. NARR: As a marine
biologist, Ayana divides
her time between research and classes in San Diego,
and her field studies on
Curacao – an island just off
the coast of Venezuaela. AYANA: The ultimate goal of my
research is to be able to create
a proposal for the island of Curacao to give them an
idea of how to manage their
resources sustainably. So that includes both setting
aside certain areas as protected
where fishing is not allowed to occur and also having
regulations for the type of
fishing that does still occur.” NARR: Ayana has three
research sites on Curacao,
each set with traps made by local fishermen. She has
modified some of the traps
with exit slots to allow
certain fish to escape. AYANA: This is Acanthurus
bariene, also known as
the surgeon fish. It’s very commonly found
in the Caribbean and also
where I do my research in Curacao. And it often winds up
in my fish traps. So I want to
know how wide the fish is. This one is 16.07 millimeters.
Knowing how wide they are will
help me figure out how wide the exit slot has to be so
that they can get out. Something I didn’t expect
was to find so many large
moray eels in my fish traps. They can be up to 2 meters
long and have some pretty
scary looking teeth AYANA: This is a control, so
they are really caught. ADVISOR:
Can’t they get through? AYANA: No, they can’t get
through, it’s a one inch—this
is the actual mesh size
ADVISOR: Okay AYANA: There are two
different types of slots that
I am testing to see if the fish will find them and exit and
I am targeting the juveniles and
the narrow bodied species as the fish that I want to see exit the
trap because they have very
little economic value. They don’t really have much meat on
them so fishermen aren’t trying
to catch them for food. So we are going to Santa
Marta uh and I am going to
open the traps today – to let all the fish out
which is something that
I really enjoy doing NARR: There are eight traps at
each of Ayana’s research sites. She moves the traps around
each week to study how the
different trap designs work in various locations
along the reef. AYANA: The number of hours in my
work week is highly variable. So
when I am in San Diego and working on campus it’s like a
regular 9 to 5 job. I do a lot
of background reading to keep
up with the literature in the field. I meet with my
advisers. I take classes.
But when I am doing field
work, its completely all consuming and I wake up and I
get ready to dive and I do 3
dives a day and when I get home I enter data and I prepare my
gear for the next day and on
the weekends I do statistical analysis and prepare for the
next week… there is a lot
of data to enter and I think
so far I have recorded information on over – well
over 1000 individual fishes.
So it’s a lot to keep track
of. So these are the data sheets that I use
underwater. And you can write
underwater if you use a pencil. Here in San Diego for leisure
I spend a lot of time at the
beach. I live a block from a gorgeous beach and so I go
down there just often times
to read or to play football
with friends or go swimming. I think marine biology is
one of the fields that at
least for me you are able to merge sort of playing
and working. You go scuba
diving, you spend a lot of time in the ocean. You have to spend
a lot of time at the beach and
at the same time you have the opportunity to do work that is
really important for
conservation and the combination of being fun and doing something
useful. In Curacao I have a lot
less time for leisure activities especially because its really
important when you are diving to
get a lot of sleep so uh but I have started taking salsa
dancing lessons there
which is a ton of fun. This is getting serious, I think
we’d better ditch the goggles. Divers get really upset when
they see the fish in the traps
and its been a traditional area
of conflict between fishermen who use traps and divers
because divers often cut the
traps open to let the fish
out. So I have worked very closely with the diving
community to make sure that the
divers understand that the goal of my project is to help the
fisheries department here find a
more environmentally friendly
way to manage the trap fishery. So the reason that I am most
excited about doing this research is that the results
will actually be used pretty
much immediately. They are in the process of writing new laws
for managing the fishing here on
the island of Curacao and the results of my research will be
used to determine how those laws
are written. which is wonderful motivation to get in the water
and do 300 dives because as a
conservation ecologist that is my goal to do research that has
direct applications to
developing policy. You can absolutely make a good living
being a marine biologist whether
that is as a professor or as a government employee or
what I plan to do is
work for a non profit. NARR: Like most marine
scientists who have to set their
own schedules, Ayana finds it easy to work hard when
you’re doing what you love. AYANA: I love not having
a desk job. I love that
my office is anywhere in the world where there is an
ocean. You are not going to
become a millionaire by studying fish but the travel perks are
pretty fantastic. And you can
definitely design your research plan to land you just about
anywhere in the world. Everything’s going well, just
another day at the office.


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