Marine Biology Career

From: Peter M Scheifele (
Date: Sun Jan 06 2002 - 22:05:23 EST

Dear 7th Grader (Phil and Mona)

Although I am not a marine biologist (I am a physical oceanographer-
bioacoustician) I'll answer your questions as I see them. You should
also consult the "ed resources page" of Whalenet.

1. What education, skills, and training does it take?
As a minimum, in this field you should have a Masters Degree but a PhD is
best especially if you want to do research and work at a major university
as I do. Obviously, a marine biologist needs to be very strong in
biology. In my case, one needs to be strong in both physics and biology.
Since I deal with hearing and sound production I also have a medical
background in otology, audiology and speech pathology. Mathematics is
VERY important. To do research one needs to be able to tell people about
it so writing and speaking skills are also very important.

2. Where can you get the training that is needed?
Experience is, in my opinion, the best way to learn the particulars of
the field however, you can't get it without schooling. Stay in school.

3. What are the job prospects? How many jobs?
Both of these fields are small but bioacoustics is very narrow. The
prospect for jobs is fairly small in academia (research and teaching at
universities and colleges) and even smaller outside (commercially and in
government) although they do exist. National Marine Fisheries Service,
Minerals Mining Service and congressional are examples.

4. Whare is the job located?
Pretty much as stated above in answer #3.

5. What are the rewards of the occupation?
I absolutely love my work! I love doing research and I love teaching.
Being able to help the animals and do research that may help us to help
people is very rewarding. I worked for a while as head trainer at an
aquarium and that was both exciting and rewarding but I love the
research. Being responsible for conservation of our environment is an
added joy.

6. What things are hard about the job?Good vs. Bad?
Asking questions of nature is not an easy task. Getting answers is even
harder and sometimes we don't get what we'd like to hear for answers.
Hardships for me include having to be away from my family for extended
periods in summer mostly. I spend a good amount of time at sea and am
comfortable being there. I've spent about half my life at sea but when
one has a family it gets tough. You have to be committed to your
research and the hours it entails.

7. Are there certain physical requirements?
Being at sea in places such as the North Atlantic in winter or in the
Arctic require one to be of good health and hardy. A day on ship can be
both long and gruelling (but worthwhile and fulfilling).

8. What could I expect to earn?
It really depends on what you do: at university around 50,000$/ year
(gross), similar in government a bit more as a commercial contractor.

I hope this helps. Some answers may sound dreary but I wouldn't trade it
for the world! Good luck.

Peter M."Skip" Scheifele LCDR USN (Ret.)
Director of Bioacoustic Research
Animal Bioacoustics/Neuroanatomy
University of Connecticut

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