Maryellen Timmons

Marine Education Specialist
University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium
What is your current job and what does it entail? 

My job is multifaceted and fun! I have many titles that represent my multidisciplinary duties: marine biologist, teacher, professor, captain, intern coordinator and grant writer. My position is at the University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium in Savannah. My official title is marine education specialist. In my position, I draw from most of my previous experiences: I teach marine science (K-college level), write grants and conduct educational as well as scientific research. I publish my research and education materials in journals. Additionally, I captain our research vessels, run the Georgia Sea Grant Internship Program, conduct graduate courses, train teachers and students in inquiry and research methods, and create marine science activities for all ages. I also work with volunteers who gather weekly and monthly data used to monitor our water quality. I represent the University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium as a board member of the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) and the Southeast Center for Ocean Education Excellence (SECOSEE). Additionally, I am the Georgia Sea Grant Education Representative. Some days I may be hiking on a pristine barrier island for the day, working on the computer or teaching. Mostly, my days are filled with a variety of different tasks.

What was the key factor in your career decision? 

Living in a coastal area as a child and having access to a small boat to go exploring on my own hooked me on salt water. However, first I had to prove to my dad that I could row if the engine didn't work! I soon became very protective of the coastal zone, noting human trash and eutrophication of waterways. I decided to do something about the human attitude about coastal zones and never looked back. Many of my experiences came from trying new ideas and jobs that seemed like fun. Amazingly, many of those experiences came up in the job description of my current position. For instance, I taught part time for the Los Angeles County "At Sea" Program that gave young students a shipboard experience, taught a summer science class for the LA County Museum, and worked at a marine field station in Mexico. I was formally trained as a researcher, but eventually I was able to combine all that I loved into one incredible position at the University of Georgia.

What do like most about your career? 

I am never bored! There are so many exciting aspects of my position that it is difficult to choose one. The many different tasks I perform each day give me the energy and motivation I need to keep going. I love to see the sparkling eyes and excitement evident in students, teachers and adults when they learn about marine science and how it affects their lives. I work in a beautiful setting with a truly magnificent group of colleagues who have become a part of my extended family.

What do you like least about your career? 

Sometimes the hours are long and I miss my family and pets. My year-round position requires that I work many hours and weekends, and miss summer vacations.

What do you do to relax? 

Go fishing, swimming and kayaking with my family and friends! When time allows I like to read.

Who are your heroes/heroines? 

Eugenie Clark is my heroine for her pursuit of an intriguing and monumental career in a historically male dominated field. My dad is my hero for encouraging me to do everything without gender bias, and letting me have a small boat to go exploring!

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

Get a good foundation in biology and plan on pursuing a master's degree to specialize. Being a good speaker, writer and biologist are all necessary skills to becoming successful in a career in marine science. In a B.S. program, try to take classes in marine science (perhaps as a minor) to get a feel for what particular aspect of marine science interests you the most. Marine science is such a huge field now, allowing many interdisciplinary applications. For instance, marine scientists need engineers to work with them building equipment to specifications. If you find you have a flare for math and physics, you could work as an engineer on a ship or at a marine laboratory.

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

I don't believe that you should look at trends in career placement opportunities. If you truly love what you do and are skilled, you will find a place. But you need to follow your heart and make sacrifices for what you enjoy rather than for money.

What will you be doing 10 years from today? 

Hopefully, the same work. Even when I'm 70 years old I hope I can still do what I do today!

Maryellen Timmons

My job is multifaceted and fun! I have many titles that represent my multidisciplinary duties: marine biologist, teacher, professor, captain, intern coordinator and grant writer.

Education

B.S., Marine Biology, California State University, Long Beach
M.S., Biology, California State University, Long Beach
Ph.D., Marine Biology/Biochemistry, University of Delaware College of Marine Studies

Salary

$40,000 - $60,000