Research Associate, Whitman College, Biology Department, Walla Walla, WA
Ph.D., 1978 Scripps Institution of Oceanography/U.C.S.D., Oceanography;Graduate courses 1972/73 University of Michigan School of Natural Resources;B.A., 1972 University of California at San Diego,Biology;Junior year abroad program 1969/70 University College Nairobi, Kenya;Summer courses 1969, 1973 Invertebrate Zoology and Phytoplankton Ecology, Catalina Island Marine Laboratory, University of Southern California
I now run several programs for recent PhDs that are dedicated to enhancing interdisciplinary understanding and peer networking, with a goal of representing diversity at all levels. Working with students and recent graduates enables me to interact with young scientists from around the world, and to help ensure that anyone with an interest can participate in new discoveries and take full part in the global scientific community.Other research interest include phytoplankton physiological ecology, UV effects on aquatic organisms, climate change and impacts, aquatic science education and human-resource issues.
My interest in oceanography as a career option began my sophomore year in high school when my biology teacher showed a film sponsored by the Office of Naval Research called ‘Oceanography: The Last Frontier’. It was part of the Navy’s response to Sputnik. It stressed how little we knew about the ocean and how important the ocean is for food and other resources to improve the human condition. At that time women were not generally allowed on Navy or even on some university vessels. Fortunately I didn’t know that. I was hooked. And by the time I entered graduate school, women were welcomed on most (but not all) ships.
I went to the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) as an undergraduate because it is affiliated with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Scripps was the only oceanographic institution I had ever heard of; my high-school counselors knew even less about oceanography programs than I did. Now there is the world wide web and with one search you can find a host of institutions with programs—For example, visit http://www.aslo.org/education/links/academic.html. There are also all sorts of pages with career information. See http://www.marinecareers.net/ or http://www.aslo.org/career.html.
After considering many majors, I decided on biology. After my sophomore year, I enrolled in a summer course at the University of Southern California’s Catalina Island campus. Summer courses are great, because you have the luxury of focusing on one topic and the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the field or laboratory studying live material. It is also a great opportunity to meet people with similar interests and establish close relationships with professors. I studied invertebrate ecology. I spent my junior year in Nairobi, Kenya. My invertebrate biology prof helped me set up a research project studying lunar periodicity in tropical sea urchins. Today there are many opportunities for summer school and for research. Visit http://www.nsf.gov/home/crssprgm/reu/reuoce.htm for a list of summer research opportunities supported by the National Science Foundation. Or look through the “Resource” links at http://aslo.org/mas/.
I began graduate school at Scripps in 1973 and switched interest from invertebrate zoology to phytoplankton (single-celled plants) physiology and ecology. In August, 1978 I received my PhD, got married, and started a postdoctoral position at the University of British Columbia. I then spent a year in Scotland and a year in Norway, studying the response of phytoplankton to the large seasonal changes in daylength.
As a woman in science during the years when women were beginning to enter the aquatic sciences in large numbers, I developed a strong interest in science education and human-resource issues.
After three years as a postdoc, my husband received a job as a professor at Whitman College in eastern Washington. I was able to negotiate a position as a Research Associate, and I also taught part time. I also spent a year as a program officer at the National Science Foundation, when my husband was on sabbatical, working at the National Institutes of Health.
It is not easy to keep up with oceanography from an inland location, but growth of the internet made it possible for me to collaborate with scientists in other places and serve as Executive Director for the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography for 10 years. During the early years I was able to put in a lot of time on education and human-resource issues, but as the office grew I had to spend more and more time on general administration. I decided to quit so I could develop and organize new programs. I now run several programs for recent PhDs that are dedicated to enhancing interdisciplinary understanding and peer networking, with a goal of representing diversity at all levels. See http://aslo.org/phd.html. Ben Cuker was very active in ASLO and I was able to serve as a mentor for several of his minority workshops. In 2001 I worked with Ben on a grant to develop electronic resources to enhance minority participation in the aquatic sciences (http://aslo.org/mas/). It is d esigned to complement the programs organized by the various REU and Minority Program directors. I also keep databases to characterize and track career paths of recent PhD recipients and minority undergraduate and graduate students.
I love my work. While I no longer conduct research it is still a joy to follow the field as it advances and to take part in developing the next generation of aquatic sciences. New tools including molecular markers enable us to look at individual cells and species in new ways. And satellite images reveal global patterns in nature. These new techniques are daily improving our understanding of the oceans and of local and global processes. Working with students and recent graduates enables me to interact with young scientists from around the world, and to help ensure that anyone with an interest can participate in new discoveries and take full part in the global scientific community.
My advice to students is to take as many math courses as possible, but don’t forget to work on English skills. Scientists spend a lot of time reading and writing as well as researching. We also spend a lot of time speaking, to small and to large groups. Take as many science classes as possible in high school and college. Aquatic biologists need to know geology, chemistry and physics as well as biology. Finally, be persistent and develop a strong sense of humor. Most people mean well, even when we say or do something stupid. Be tolerant and forgiving. Our world is changing, and changing fast. Each of you will contribute to this changing world and the advancement of knowledge.