Shannon Atkinson

Marine Biologist
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
What is your current job and what does it entail? 

I am a professor at the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences for the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF). I conduct research on a variety of species from corals to seals and whales. My research focuses on the physiology of a multitude of species, developing knowledge on why species fail to adapt to environmental change. As many of the techniques to perform endocrine analyses utilize radioimmunoassays, my lab is operated as a specialized recharge facility that is licensed under the UAF's Nuclear Regulatory Commission License. I advise graduate students whose interests are in the marine sciences. I also teach classes at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

What was the key factor in your career decision? 

I enjoy research and I love working with animals. I debated about becoming a veterinarian or doing research; research keeps my mind active and it always poses new challenges and interesting topics.

What do like most about your career? 

I like the flexibility it provides for my lifestyle. I love working with animals and understanding how and why nature works the way it does. I feel in touch with the world around me and enjoy watching animals in a natural setting and trying to figure out why they do what they do.

What do you like least about your career? 

I dislike the increasing volumes of paperwork, especially for endangered species research. Sometimes I spend too much time behind a desk and not enough in the lab, the library or the field.

What do you do to relax? 

I enjoy my family, hiking, swimming and being in remote places. All of these activities provide relaxation and time to contemplate the meaning of life.

Who are your heroes/heroines? 

My mother is my biggest heroine. She is smart and calm, and has always been supportive.

What advice would you give a student who expressed an interest in pursuing a career in your field? 

Study hard, stay in science, and above all be persistent.

Are career opportunities in your field increasing or decreasing and why? 

I am not sure what the statistics say, but I see an increasing need to understand the biology of individual species and ecosystems. We often see very few applicants for our scientific positions. With the human population increasing, we are putting increased pressures on ecosystems and the organisms within them. We need to have trained individuals to help progress our understanding of the natural world and how it is changing.

What will you be doing 10 years from today? 

Probably the same thing, but life holds surprises and one should never take it for granted. Ten years ago, I thought we had settled into life in Hawaii forever. Today we happily reside in Alaska.

Shannon Atkinson

I love working with animals and understanding how and why nature works the way it does. I feel in touch with the world around me and enjoy watching animals in a natural setting and trying to figure out why they do what they do.

Education

B.S., Animal Science, University of Hawaii
M.S., Animal Science, University of Hawaii
Ph.D., Veterinary Science, Murdoch University

Salary

$125,000 +