Gulf Ecology Division (EPA)
The best parts of my job are working outdoors, operating boats, getting wet and getting paid to have fun in the sun and protect the environment. I get to do cutting edge research in remote and challenging places where people seldom venture.
B.S., Marine Resource Management and Aquaculture, Stockton State College
$60,000 - $80,000
What is your current job and what does it entail?
I am a biological science laboratory and field operations technician with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Gulf Ecology Division in Gulf Breeze, Florida. I am responsible for all aspects of field support for scientists conducting estuarine research in the Gulf of Mexico and southeastern U.S. in support of the EPA's Office of Research and Development. These duties include boat operation and maintenance; water quality data and sample collection; wetlands, mangrove, seagrass and coral research; scuba surface support and diving; fieldwork; and wet lab ecotoxicology support. Also, I help with offshore research of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico on the EPA's flagship, the 224' Ocean Survey Vessel Bold. Basically, I assist in estuarine research and conduct the science behind the nation's future environmental laws.
What was the key factor in your career decision?
A love of nature, water, the oceans and especially fish. I really enjoyed field trips and fieldwork as a student and wanted to turn that into a career.
What do like most about your career?
Working outdoors, operating boats, getting wet and getting paid to have fun in the sun and protect the environment. I get to do cutting edge research in remote and challenging places where people seldom venture.
What do you like least about your career?
Government red tape or "adminis-trivia."
What do you do to relax?
Play in boats, fish, kayak, sail, ride motorcycles, ATVs, camp, travel and enjoy the outdoors.
Who are your heroes/heroines?
Matt Hooper (the marine biologist in Jaws) and Jacques Cousteau.
What advice would you give a student who expressed an interest in pursuing a career in your field?
Go to a college near the coast with a good marine science program. Get experience through internships; I highly recommend the Student Conservation Association (theSCA.org). Take a chance--leave home and leave everything behind. You will grow by leaps and bounds once you break away from your familiar surroundings. Good grades aren't everything. As long as you're a hardworking, enthusiastic, fun and positive person, you can go far in life. I cannot overstate the importance of networking -- seek out working professionals and ask them how they got started. Most of us will be happy to share our experiences and give advice.
Are career opportunities in your field increasing or decreasing and why?
Increasing. Many people live near the coast and the problems are getting worse. There will continue to be a demand for young, energetic scientists to help conduct research and find creative solutions to our country's environmental issues.
What will you be doing 10 years from today?
Hopefully, working in Hawaii, Alaska or some other beautiful location conducting research to save our environment.