What do Marine Biologists really do?

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I wrote an article for the amazing Smore Magazine, debunking the myths around Marine Biology: how we are all on some spiritual quest of saving the planet with positive energy, how we swim all day with dolphins and essentially only go on holidays rather than actually doing research.

Written to encourage the next generation of marine scientist, but also to calm parents who are worried about their children’s career ambitions, I tackle stereotypes of Marine Biologist that I have personally encountered.

Since I began my journey as a Marine Biologist 10 years ago (although my heart was set on it for more than 15 years), I’ve been faced with a lot of criticism from people who are misinformed regarding what marine science is, mixed with admiration and confusion as to why anyone would pursuit a career that no one has ever heard anyone be successful in.

I’d like to argue that times have changed. Social media and growing international recognition for the dire state of our oceans has changed people’s perception. While I don’t get odd looks anymore when I say I’m a PhD in Marine Biology — lets be honest, its because everyone thinks doing a PhD is impressive — within the scientific community I am still often referred to as ‘not a real scientist’.

In their defense, they are often bachelor or master students evidently not from the biological sciences, so we can forgive them.

Nonetheless, most seem surprised when I say that all the diving I do is recreational, while all my work is confined to the space of one lab bench and a bunch of chemical cabinets.

My PhD work has focused on climate change impacts on corals and their temperature tolerance mechanisms on a cellular level — I work with tiny tubes in the lab and terabytes of data on the computer.

Because of the inherent stereotypes of marine science, I’ve begun calling my PhD work as Marine Molecular Biology. Yes, I went there. And I stand by it. What I do in my research exceeds people’s expectations; at times I have more coherent conversations with genetics, evolutionary biologist and, in odd cases, cancer researchers than with some marine biologists.

Shocked? Maybe not so much if you know that on a molecular level, all living cells have a lot in common..

And I am just one of many, who have chosen specialities, which at first may not strike one as marine science.

So whether find yourself a little surprised about what marine scientists can do or want to give your children insight into an unexpectedly diverse career; give the article a read!

Reefs and Research

Anecdotes of a Ph.D. that decided to leave academia

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