Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 00:00:03 -0800 (PST)
From: Pieter Folkens <email@example.com>
To: Austin Williams <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com
Subject: Re: marine sciences
I checked my "sent file" and did not see my previous
response to your questions. SO, in case it did not go
through to you, I'll give it another shot.
> For my English class I must
> conduct various interviews related to my "Dream job"
which is to
> become a marine biologist. If you could answer these
> questions I would be very great full. This
assignment is due
> on Monday the 24th
> 1. Tell me about your job including your title and
I am a Science Communicator with a specialty in the
field of marine mammals. To support that specialty I
have extensive field and research experience in the
subject, particularly in cetacean morphology,
paleontology, and osteology. I have also published
major work in the field of osteology (bones).
I am a freelancer, that is, I am self-employed.
> 2. What do you like most about it?
Being self employed offers me great academic freedom
to pursue any direction that interests me.
> 3. How did you obtain this position?
I did not obtain it, rather I made it. It grew on
> 4. What kind of college degree/credentials/skills
Some people I know have a satisfyingn career in the
field with only a BA or BS. Most, however, have at
least a master's degree. There are many Ph.D.s in the
field as well, though a Ph.D does not guarantee
satisfaction or success.
> 5. What types of people do well in your field?
Good science requires a high degree of integrity.
Curiosity is also valuable. I've noticed that those
who come to the field with a wider background of
experience and education do quite well. For example,
one of the finest naturalists, teachers and marine
mammalogists was Ken Norris. He is best known for
accomplishments in Cetology (whales and dolphins),
though his education was more centered in desert
ecology. We was also a good artist and communicator.
> 6. What are the opportunities for advancement?
I make my own advancements. However, most of the jobs
in the field are in academia and government.
Opportunities there require working within a
bureaucracy and politically-charged academic
> 7. What is the entry-Level salary range in this
$0.00. Many of those working in the field of marine
mammalogy started volunteering at museums, theme
parks, rescue/rehab facilities, and in conservation.
Researchers typically begin in college without
salaries, then find positions after graduation
influenced greatly by associations and reputations
developed while at school.
> 8. What is the employment outlook (locally,
Not immensely good, but opportunities come up fairly
often. There are more people who would like to work
with whales and dolphins than there are paying jobs to
support them. One must be flexible and not too picky.
> 9. What are the drawbacks of this job?
Unless one obtains a tenured postition in academia or
a permanent postition in a major museum, a drawback is
job security and a regular pay check. Plagiarism can
be a problem too. The better you are, the more your
work is plagiarized.
> 10. Why do people leave this occupation?
Retirement. I've known many who have retired, but
continue to participate and contribute in the field.
> 11. Can you suggest any one else I might contact?
The Society for Marine Mammalogy has a node on its web
site that gives insights regarding careers in the
field. Google the Society, or check the WhaleNet web
site. I think they have a link.
> 12. What do you prefer, field work or lab work and
I like both. The field work can be grueling, dirty and
uncomfortable, but it often puts one on the cutting
edge of discovery. In the lab it all comes together
and is intellectually stimulating.
> 13. What field of the marine sciences first
interested you in a career
> in the sciences (marine mammals, plankton,
Marine paleontology. When most boy in the 3rd grade
were ga-ga over dinosaurs, I was in the foothills
digging up Miocene marine mammal fossils.
> 14. Have you made any significant discoveries or
have you been
> involved with any groundbreaking research? If so,
In the late 1970s and early 80s I volunteered on a
team from the LA County Museum of Natural History that
discovered several archaic whales, dolphins and sea
lions. I contributed a new species of a Pliocene
mysticete (baleen whale) to LACM which was found in
Central California. More recently I discovered a new
species of dolphin in Mexico. The specimen ended up at
a University in Mexico where it is being studied and
described for publication later this year.
Dr. Fred Sharpe and I have been working for years on
the notion of "flipper flashing" of prey by humpback
whales in Alaska. We believe humpbacks use the white
on their long pectoral fins to flash their prey in an
effort to improve their feeding efficiency. Early on
the idea was dismissed. However, with a ship-load of
convincing evidence we are preparing a paper for
publication later this year.
> 15. When first entering the field, what road blocks
might I come
> across when trying to find a job in field research?
Limited job opportunities. More accurately, there are
lots of opportunities to do field research, but
finding some one who will pay you for it is a
I recommend that you get a good background education
in science. For humanities course work, focus on those
classes that hone your communication skills—creative
writing, field sketching, photography, etc. Volunteer
at a museum, zoo, or marine theme park if there is one
Alaska Whale Foundation
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