I am a fish scientist who has worked in the fields of marine biology (by studying fish in the ocean) and freshwater biology (by studying fish in rivers and lakes). I started studying marine biology in college and graduate school.
What is Marine Biology?
Marine biologists can study any form of life in the ocean, whether it is microscopic drifting plants and animals called plankton, seaweeds and seagrasses, colorful invertebrates and fish, or mammals and birds.
Marine biologists study how these plants and animals survive in an often challenging environment, and how their populations change. Marine biologists often work closely with oceanographers, who study the chemical, physical, and geological processes of sea water, waves and currents, and the sea floor.
The ocean is an enormous and diverse place that we know relatively little about, so there is always something exciting to discover.
Why Study Fish?
I got interested in studying fish, as well as fisheries, which involves how, when, where, and how much people are catching fish.
Fish are unique because you can study them through two very different angles. One is to learn about the animals themselves – about their life cycle, behavior, diet, reproduction, and more. The other angle is the relationship between fish and people, which is often fisheries. Fish and fisheries science cuts across many disciplines, including biology, ecology, economics, social science, conservation, education, and policy. There are so many jobs that you can do related to fish!
Studying fish can take place in both saltwater and freshwater, and when I finished graduate school, I got a job related to fish in freshwater. In a relatively dry state like California where I live, both fish (such as salmon and trout) and people depend on a scarce, limited resource: fresh water. Many scientists that I work with are trying to figure out how we can best balance our limited freshwater supply so that fish populations can survive, and people can have enough water to grow food and use in other ways. This can be especially challenging during a drought.
Another challenge in both marine and freshwater environments is making sure people can catch enough fish to eat, but also that the fish populations can still sustain themselves and not disappear. This field is known as “sustainable fisheries.”
A Love For Writing
In addition to fish science, the other half of my job is related to science communication.
Science is like a foreign language. There are special technical terms, called jargon, that scientists use like a code to communicate with one another. Science communicators help translate the language of science so more people can understand it. Sometimes we find creative ways to tell the stories of science and help them come alive.
Some of the tools that science communicators use are writing (my favorite), photography, videos, radio and podcast stories, or simply talking to people. I was fortunate to find a unique job that allows me to do science communication with a focus on fish!