Subject: Marine Science Career :)

Lindsay J Porter (
Tue, 2 Dec 1997 15:21:08 +0800

>My question is basically how'd you know what you liked..?? how you choose
>your profession..or something on 
>that line..?? rude..of me..I'm Alvin, I'm a graduating student 
>from Canada..and I'm really unsure what I want to do in life.  Maybe 
>it's too soon too know..but i'm basically lookin for someone or 
>something to influence me or enlighten me. Maybe i'm lookin for a 
>miricale or something.  I'm also working on a slide show for my 
>computer class, which is done about a future job possibility.  I 
>choose "marine biology" as my career.  I'm not sure why..maybe it's 
>all the "Flipper" movies.."Free Willy" or my many visits to the 
>aquarium ...or the visiting the coast.  I'm not's a job 
>profession that looks appealing at the moment.  well any information 
>you can provide..insights, thoughts, views, 
>would be appreciated!! 

Dear Alvin,
I recall the school career officer asking me when I was 14 years old what I
"wanted to be" - I thought I was far too young to make such a weighty
choice.  Oddly enough I never wanted to be a Marine Biologist - I wanted to
be a medical doctor (as this was my 'families profession') BUT then started
a pathology course at University THEN, after two year of the mind-numbing
boredom in daylight deprived laboratories, I switched to any other course
that would have me (as I had pretty much specialised in things microbial I
was unsure who would take me) I ultimately ended up doing Aquatic Bioscience
(nice broad marine and freshwater course) and decided I wanted to work with
marine mammals (apparently everyone is drawn to the megavertebrates at
first) BUT was told I didn't have much chance as the competition was stiff.
I did, however, get a voluntary then full time position on a seal project
and it was then that I knew that I was doing the right thing.  I am never
happier than when on boats - the thrill of observing all the species of
marine mammals I have been lucky enough to see has never diminished.  I am
unsure why to be honest - maybe because humans are rarely afforded more than
a glimpse of what underwater mammals really do - or perhaps suddenly
realising that the oceans are a world of incredible diversity that we know
so little about and see so little of on the surface.  And as for it being a
"sexy profession" - visions of bleached blonde tanned and toned biologists
on the prow of a boat, whale tail silhouetted   against a sun set
kaliedescope of oranges and fire - well, it doesn't happen that often!!!
Besides whale and dolphin work, I do have a few friends who work on subsea
projects - mainly corals and sea horses.  I think their fields far more
stereotypical marine biological  - they spend lots of times in tropical
locations, on boats and underwater and maybe it is the sheer colour and
variety of marine life that stimulates them so.  Ultimately you end up
spending more and more time in front of the computer trying to figure out
"Why" and "What" and "Which" statistics  to use.  The reason why most people
I know do marine work is for the fieldwork - it is fun, interesting and
fascinating regardless of whether it is hot, cold, wet or dry!  There are
some amazing things to be seen whil eon or near or in teh water - and
perhaps the thrill is enhanced by never quite knowing what you will
experience next.  
Why don't you check out IFAWs research boat - Song of theWhale - website?  I
have worked on the boat a few times and have had some of my best 'marine
mammal moments' there
I spent this summer on the boat in the Bay of Fundy - amazing whales!

OR look at Expedition Wallacea, coral reef exploration of Indonesia (for
something tropical!)
The first time I dived a coral reef, although I had "seen" the colourful
pictures that litter dive magazines and holiday adverts, nothing prepared me
for the NOISE or the incredible vibrancy a coral reef has.  It positivel
buzzes with life at all levels - it is like a different world before you,
the various layers of which you can see interacting as you watch quietly
from above. 
I suppose as you are embarking upon your initial career choice though, never
feel that the path you take is the only one.  I switched from microbes to
mammals - and for me that was a choice I was happy with.  If you can, try
and get some practical experience on a project (most marine projects I know
are so underfunded that without volunteers the work just wouldn't happen) -
that might give you a better idea of what suits you.  I wish I could inspire
you more - marine biology is such a vast field - and one that appeals to
many people for reasons that are difficult to fathom!  You could do anything
within the field really - from boat and diving work - to consulting - to
conservation - to teaching and, in turn, try to inspire others.  Try
searching Yahoo's Oceanography website - this may give you more ideas as to
what other careers there may be

OR the Marine Mammal Society's website for careers in the field

If my waffling hasn't put you off, why not drop me an email every couple of
weeks and I will tell you, in brief, what I  have been up to and what
exciting/dull/inspiring/tiring things have happened at the Institute I work
in (website for my dept and Institute,

Hope this helps - it is a tough time making career choices, and I probably
SHOULD have given you advice on University choice and courses with a good
reputation - JUST get out there and see a little of the marine environment.
And ultimately if you find that marine biology is not for you, then I have a
stack of pathology text books you can have!!!

with best wishes 

Dolphin Research Group
The Swire Institute of Marine Science
The University of Hong Kong
Cape d'Aguilar
Hong Kong