Re: Marine biology advice

From: Greg Early (
Date: Mon Jan 10 2005 - 09:58:56 EST

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    Tough question.

    Fortunately, WhaleNet has a lot of information to get
    you started. If you have not done so already check
    out the "resources" section under "Careers"
     One of the best is the link to the Marine Mammal
    Society website and career information. You can also
    get a bunch of information about life as a marine
    science by just putting "I want to be a marine
    scientist" into most any web engine. There are lots
    of profiles and interviews to look at to help guide
    your thinking.

    There are a couple of things to consider, however.
    Marine science - particularly the "hands on" variety
    you are talking about is very limiting - there are not
    a lot of places where it is done - there are a lot of
    people that want to do it, and there is a real trade
    off between "lifestyle" and work. You are smart to be
    thinking about it.

    One thing to consider - and you are not clear on this
    - is what is more important - Working with marine
    animals - or making money doing it? What I mean by
    this is that many people work in this field and do not
    make their primary income doing it. For example,some
    rehabilitation programs use part time or consulting
    vets in their programs. These vets usually work in a
    more traditional practice part of the time and that is
    where their income comes from. There are also
    researchers that work on marine mammals as a part of
    their other work. So one question to ask yourself is
    do you see yourself as (for example) a geneticist that
    works on marine mammals or a marine mammal scientist
    that does genetics? This would make a big difference
    in the answer to your main question.

    Here is the thing - If you want to be a generalist -
    that is someone who knows a lot about a wide range of
    things - you have less of a need for specialized
    training (that would mean get a good science
    background - and keep adding specialized training
    after the fact). If you want to be a specialist
    (marine mammal ophthalmologist) you should get as much
    specialized training as you can.

    A couple of things to consider - you can get a lot of
    training and experience - as a volunteer or intern.
    You don't get paid, but your "pay" is the experience.
    You can work in a lab if you want specialized training
    - you can work in a zoo or aquarium if you want
    general experience being around and caring for the
    animals. Your choice, but entry level at any point
    means low pay and being willing (or able) to go where
    the work is.

    The good news is that there are a lot of internships
    and chances to get experience and one approach is to
    find an organization (or individual) that does what
    you want to do and work with them. The good thing
    about interships is that you get to try out a career
    before you are stuck doing it for the rest of your

    I have had interns and volunteers who have gone both
    ways - some found just what they wanted working with
    marine mammals - some became investment bankers and
    are making a lot more money than I ever will. Either
    way - at this point you have some choice.

    Good Luck,


    --- wrote:

    > Mr. Early,
    > My name is Stacy Knight and I am currently a
    > sophomore, majoring in
    > biology, at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. I
    > am writing to you in hopes of
    > receiving some advice on pursuing a marine biology
    > career. I want more than
    > anything to study marine biology and work with
    > marine mammals through care,
    > research, and rehabilitation. I have done enough
    > research on the field to know how
    > competitive it truly is and I know that education is
    > key to success, but I am
    > torn on which direction to go with my education at
    > this point.
    > I originally planned to go out of state to Texas
    > A&M Galveston after my
    > senior year, but financial aid was lost through the
    > mail and proper aid was not
    > granted, and I was unable to go for my freshman
    > year. Transfer was my next
    > option, which I attempted and this time not
    > scholarship money was left and I was
    > going to have to pay full price for out of state
    > tuition once again. I am in
    > the process of working on applications for transfer
    > to schools again this year
    > for fall 2005, but I would like to know if it is all
    > worth it?
    > For me, money is a huge factor. I am paying for
    > my education on my own, I
    > don't mind spending the money to get what I want, I
    > just want to make sure
    > that they extra money I will be spending to get an
    > undergraduate degree in Marine
    > Biology is going to benefit me more than an
    > undergraduate degree in Biology.
    > So I guess my initial question is how important is
    > the experience of marine
    > biology at the undergraduate level? Can one be
    > equally successful and have the
    > same career opportunities if they receive a biology
    > degree and pursue graduate
    > work in marine biology as one that receives marine
    > biology degree experience
    > in both ungrid and graduate work?
    > I am teetering between finishing off my biology
    > degree at Drake and then
    > going to graduate school, or transferring to a
    > marine biology undergraduate
    > program. I have also considered going the marine
    > veterinary route and have
    > looked into the Iowa State University veterinary
    > program. Any suggestion you have
    > on which route to take or possible schools that are
    > strong in marine biology
    > that I should look into that would be wonderful.
    > If you have any additional information about
    > pursuing a career in marine
    > biology, internship/volunteer opportunities, funding
    > or scholarship
    > opportunities, or possibly someone else that would
    > be helpful on this matter would be
    > great!
    > Thank you so very much for your time. Your time
    > and response is so greatly
    > appreciated.
    > Stacy Knight

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