What do you enjoy most about working with marine coastal ecosystems?
Working in marine coastal ecosystems – and the ocean in general – has always felt a bit like “playing in the backyard” to me. Thanks to my family, I grew up playing in tide pools and have always felt more comfortable when I’m just a little bit sandy and salty. I’ve always had a lot of respect for organisms that live in extreme environments such as the intertidal. I mean really…I complain when the temperature fluctuates more than 15 degrees, but here are organisms that have to live in such a wide variety of conditions! And then on top of all that, add on the conditions of a changing planet…it’s mind boggling.
How does citizen science support your research?
Simply stated, citizen science is critical in this day and age. Monitoring a changing planet may not always be as sexy as, say, tagging a large, charismatic critter, but it’s equally if not more important. We have to listen to what the oceans are saying, and sometimes, they speak quietly. It takes many, many eyes and ears—more than just from the traditional scientific community.
Citizen science is also crucial in that it engages the public beyond data collection. Not only does it support research in the field, we hope it supports research in the voting booth as well…
What is one of your favorite moments in the field?
My mind is absolutely flooded with memories as I try to answer this question, but one moment that that is standing out is a something actually very simple. We were doing one of our daily crossings over to Catalina, but it was a special crossing in that we had one of our researcher’s parents with us. They were from a landlocked territory of Canada, and it was their first trip to the ocean. We came upon a large pod of common dolphins who rode the bow wave of our ship, and I sat on the bow with the researcher’s parents as the dolphins jumped just below us. I will never forget their excitement and I felt so privileged to be there to be sharing it with them. It may not have been a scientific discovery, but there is no question it changed lives. Mine included.