In the Blog

On the Job: Marine Biologist

December 2nd, 2013     by Maureen O'Brien     Comments

Today, women face many new types of jobs as industries expand and new work environments emerge. From the tech world to the booming blogging community, job hunting can create anxiety inducing challenges for women. Many of these new fields are male dominated and require ingenuity and perseverance. Telling the stories of women who are breaking into job markets is an important ingredient to making sure equal opportunity exists for everyone.

This month, we delve into the changing landscape, quite literally, of Marine Science. Sadie Jacobs, a motivated young woman interested in becoming a marine biologist teams up with Shauna Mahajan, a young biologist finishing her degree at Stockholm Resilience Centre. Shauna answers important questions about the field of science and the changing dangers to the ocean.

Sadie Jacobs: What kinds of things does a marine biologist study? Shauna Mahajan: All kinds of things! Anything ranging from tiny little plankton to giant whales, how they all interact with each other, with their environment and with people.

SJ: How many years do you have to go to school to be a marine biologist? SM: As a marine biologist, you are always a student of nature! You are always learning new things through your research — but anywhere between 5-10 years after high school.

SJ: How many different animals do you need to study? SM: Depends on the kind of marine biologist you want to be! It’s hard to study just one animal because animals are always interacting with each other. Some marine biologists study whole ecosystem and all the interactions of animals and plants within them, while others tend to focus on one particular species. Other scientists, like me, study how people interact with and depend on nature.

SJ: Do you need to live somewhere special to be a M.B.? SM: Often times, a lot of jobs for marine biologists are found near the ocean. But it depends on who you end up working for, and what you want to do.

SJ: What kinds of outfits does a M.B. wear? SM: Depends on what day it is! If you’re out doing field work, during which you may be observing animals, collecting data, you might be wearing a wetsuit to allow you to swim for a long time in the water without getting cold. Other days you dress just like anybody else.

SJ: Do you start being a M.B. on land? SM: You start on land, but you can always start exploring the sea at an early age!

SJ: Do you have to live on a boat? SM: Sometimes you might spend long periods of time on a boat, but you don’t have to live on one.

SJ: Do you have to know how to swim? SM: Not always! Depends on what you decide to focus on. I, for example, study the interactions between people and the ocean and therefore spend more time talking to fishermen on land than I do swimming in the sea.

SJ: Do you need to know how to scuba dive? SM: Again, not always! Depends on what kind of marine biologist you decide to be.

SJ: What’s the biggest threat to the oceans these days? SM: Overfishing and climate change. There are more and more people in the world, and as a result, more and more fish are being taken out of the ocean for food. When we take lots of fish out of the ocean, there aren’t enough left to reproduce, to keep the population healthy and growing. People all over the world need to recognize how important it is to leave some fish in the sea, so we can still have healthy oceans in the future - both to feed us and our children, but also for the sake of all the animals and plants in the ocean!

Climate change is also impacting how our oceans function. Carbon emissions from cars and industries keeps the heat from the sun close to the surface of the earth, which then warms up the ocean. Lots of fish and plants in the sea are very sensitive to temperature, and when the ocean because warmer, a lot of these plants and animals cannot survive.

SJ: What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in the ocean? SM: It’s very hard to say! I’m always amazed by the beauty of the oceans. But to name a few — a group of endangered Northern Right Whales playing together just off the coast of New Brunswick, all the way to beautifully colored, tropical coral reefs in the Caribbean.

Tags: on the job

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