careers in marine science

From: Greg Early (
Date: Tue Jan 30 2001 - 10:55:24 EST


Well, this is kind of a tough call, as there are many ways to get involved
in the field, and mine might not be the way you would want to do it. For
some ideas about what is out there, if you have not already checked, you
should look at the career links on WhaleNet, particularly the one for
"Strategies or pursuing a career in marine science" an online paper
published by the society of marine mammology. Another way, strange as it
sounds, is to simply go to a good web search engine and type in "I want to
be a marine scientist". You will be surprised at the range and number of
pages on this that are out there.

Anyway...the way I got to where I am now was mainly by working with one
organization for a number of years. In this area (the Northeast) when I
started working (a very long time ago it seems) there were not very many
organizations that were working with marine animals. working for an
aquarium (in particular a new one, with a new marine mammal program) was a
good way to both get experience and opportunities. I have a very general,
basic biology background, that actually helped, as I could work on
everything from invertebrates to whales. Specializing in care of stranded
animals came later. Most of the advanced training I was lucky enough to
get while working, and because I am in Boston, there are a lot of
educational resources when you need them.

You seem to be on the right track, as far as aiming at a career. Volunteer
and intern opportunities are a good way to test drive both jobs that you
might want to do, and institutions that you might want to work for. At
some point you have to decide what you will be willing to trade off...for
example, if you want to work hands on with animals you have to go where
they are. Working in Hawaii is quite nice, but you will probably trade
income for a good view and the chance to wear sandals to work. Large
animal vets may not work on many rehabilitated seals, but they pay off
their student loans a heck of a lot faster (and might find the time to
consult, volunteer, or do research on the side). These are the sort of
lifestyle/professional life balancing act that you can try out as a
volunteer, to see what works best for you.

With your GPA, vet school would seem to be an option, however, these days
the field is quite fragmented and vets can do a variety of things from
teaching to research to practicing medicine. Keep in mind, however, that
even with a vet degree there are probably years of additional training as
either an intern or getting a specialty degree, that you can do as well
(none of which would assure you of either a position or an income as a
marine mammal vet). So the good news/bad news bottom line (as I see it
anyway) goes something like this...The bad news is that no matter how much
formal and informal education you get there is no sure path that will
assure you of some positions...the good news is that there are a lot of
positions out there in a lot of places and the trick is to figure out what
you want professionally and personally and use the intern/volunteer system
to try out what you think you would like to do, before you commit...

good luck,


At 08:01 PM 1/29/01 -0500, you wrote:
>Hello! My name is Kristin Hannan and I am a sophomore biology student at
>Virginia Tech. I have always had a strong interest in Marine Biology,
>specifically marine mammals, but have not really know what type of career I
>would like to enter. My question I suppose would be what has your
>experience been like in the field, how did you get involved in your current
>position and what background did you have to prepare you? I am attempting
>to acquaint myself with people, like yourself in the field that could
>possibly provide me with some advice as to getting into marine biology. As
>I learn more about the field I am gaining a strong interest in conservation
>biology as well as in the rehabilitation of injured animals. I am not sure
>of what type of schooling or training a career in this would entail. Would
>veterinary school be a good idea, is an example of the kinds of questions
>that I have. I recently learned about an animal care specialist, which
>seems to be very much what I am looking for in a career. I am currently
>enrolled in a rigorous biology program at Virginia Tech with a 3.93, spent
>two summers at a marine science education run by Newfound Harbor Marine
>Institute in the Flordia Keys, have worked in a veterinary clinic, and have
>been SCUBA certified for 7 years. If you could provide me with any
>information about marine science, and/or any insights, advice, etc. I would
>greatly appreciate. Thank you so much for your time, I look forward to
>hearing from you.
>Kristin Hannan

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