Kaitlin Baird, Women in an H2O world: Girl Power in Science (5), March 18, 2013

Fernanda Giannini

Fernanda Giannini- Oceanography Researche
Fernanda Giannini- Oceanography Researcher

Job Title:
PhD student at University of São Paulo – Oceanography Institute

What She does:
I am a first year PhD student in the Biological Oceanography Program and I am developing my field and laboratory work at the Marine Biology Center, located in São Sebastião (northern coast of São Paulo State – Brazil).

My project looks at the estimates of primary production and analysis of photosynthetic rates of the phytoplankton community in the São Sebastião channel. This channel deserves special attention due to the presence of the Port of São Sebastião, which presents potential environmental impacts for this coastal region. Furthermore, there is an important ecosystem located in the continental portion of the channel, the Araça Bay, which presents a very high biodiversity and it is an ecosystem under different types of human pressure.

The project approaches the use of techniques to estimate physiological rates and primary production from the fluorescence emitted by chlorophyll molecules as part of the photosynthesis process in the phytoplankton cells. Several studies on how to accurately estimate primary production rates from the fluorescence data has been developed around the world in order to provide a faster and less invasive method to obtain this kind of data.

Favorite Aspect of job:
For me, the most exciting aspect of being in this type of research is to have the opportunity to be in contact with so many different people, sharing experiences and moving to work in different places, from which you can establish networks and good research groups. The second aspect I consider really important is that, different of other jobs, you have the liberty and independence to work on issues and projects that suit you best, and this makes the job much more rewarding. Also, as an oceanography researcher, I am fascinated with being out on the ocean in research vessels.

What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job:
I got my degree in Marine Biology in 2007, when I decided to focus in oceanography, applying for a master degree program in Biological Oceanography in 2008. Then, I have spent two years to get my degree and, during this time, I had great experiences in the oceanography field, participating of different projects, cruises, conferences and so on. By the end of my masters, I was selected to join the Training Program in Observational Oceanography at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). I have spent 10 months at this training and the course provided great experience and knowledge about different areas of oceanography, such as physical and chemical oceanography, data management, remote sensing, etc. As soon as I got back home, I joined the PhD program, also in Biological Oceanography at University of São Paulo. In summary, that was my schooling and experiences which made me end up at my current position, and that I hope will help to set me up for a good job in a near future.

Lisa Bourassa

Lisa Bourassa- Research Associate/Phycologist
Lisa Bourassa- Research Associate/Phycologist

Job Title:
Research Associate, Phycologist
Louisiana State University
Sea Grant Oyster Hatchery

What She does:
I work at an oyster hatchery operated by LSU Sea Grant. Here we grow polyploid Crassostrea virginica oysters for research and development for the oyster industry, as well as restoration working with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF). As the Phycologist I am responsible for culturing all of the microalgae that is fed to our broodstock and larval oysters (our system can generate up to 2800 L of algae a day). I also help spawn oysters, culture the larvae, and many other miscellaneous tasks that need to be completed in the hatchery.

Favorite Aspect of job:
My favorite aspect my job is that I’m not chained to a desk! I get to work outside, get my hands dirty, and every day is different! It’s also great to be part of restoration efforts. Our hatchery works with LDWF researching different methods for oyster restoration, so it’s great to be part of something that strives to restore the oyster populations to benefit the environment as well as the industry, which many people rely on for their livelihood.

What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job:
While a background in marine biology is very important, I think the experience that set me up best for this job was working in the aquaculture laboratory as a tech at Roger Williams University. Here I learned many of the skills I execute on a daily basis, but I really learned how to manage my time, figure out what needs to be done, and get it done. Because this job was mostly taking care of animals, I learned quickly that when you work with live animals, the animals must come first and be cared for, regardless of weekends or holidays. This experience also taught me how to roll with the punches, and troubleshoot any problems that I encounter throughout the day, and it’s always okay to ask for some help if you need it.

Another experience that set me up best for this job was my time spent as a Girl Scout. Although being a Scout may not have given me the technical knowledge for my job, it taught me how to think on my own, work individually, the value of teamwork, and how to use my resources effectively. I also learned that hard work and challenges are not something to be feared, but instead to embrace the opportunities that they provide.

Kate Degnan

Kate Degnan- Educator, North Carolina Aquarium
Kate Degnan- Educator, North Carolina Aquarium

Job Title:
Educator
Education Department
North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island

What She Does:
Kate conducts public education programs at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. The mission of the aquarium is to promote awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the natural resources of North Carolina. Kate facilitates this type of learning by introducing the public to live animals, using the Science on a Sphere technology developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), playing educational games, or speaking with aquarium divers. Kate has other tasks as well; occasionally she works with the aquarium husbandry staff to help with animal care, each week she dives in the aquariums 285,000 gallon shark tank, and she also helps develop new programs.

Favorite Aspect of Job
Each day is different! Typically within a week, Kate will only teach the same program once or twice since the schedule is so varied. However, no matter how many times Kate teaches a program the delivery and execution of each program is different. Due to the location of the aquarium, people from all over the United States and from different parts of the world visit. Each person who visits has some interest, curiosity, or fear of the animals they encounter. As an educator you must understand their reaction and impart some knowledge so they might be less afraid or more interested and educated. The people make the program.

What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job?
Kate has found that having experience working with various age groups of students and being able to modify what you teach to suit the audience is extremely important. Kate has a background in marine biology and education psychology; this combination of education has provided Kate with a scientific background but also the understanding of how people learn. Communicating scientific information is important you must be able to translate that information in a way that the public can relate to it and care about it.

Sarah Fawcett

Sarah Fawcett- Chemical Oceanographer
Sarah Fawcett- Chemical Oceanographer

Job Title:
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Geosciences, Princeton University

What She does:
Sarah is a Chemical Oceanographer studying the interactions between the ocean’s major chemical cycles (specifically nitrogen and carbon) and phytoplankton, the floating single-celled plants that generate chemical energy by photosynthesis and support all of ocean life. Photosynthesis is the biological process that converts carbon dioxide into organic carbon, and nitrogen is essential for photosynthesis. One major consequence of phytoplankton photosynthesis is that it lowers the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere by storing it in the deep sea. Changes in the efficiency of this storage likely explain past changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which in turn have affected climate. We know surprisingly little about which phytoplankton in the surface ocean are responsible for taking up the nitrogen mixed into the surface from depth, and for transporting organic matter back into the deep ocean, or if indeed all phytoplankton participate equally in this process. Sarah’s interest is in discovering the sources of nitrogen that different types of phytoplankton use for growth, with a view to understanding whether phytoplankton diversity is important for ocean processes such as carbon storage in the deep ocean, and how this might change if phytoplankton communities change in the future.

 Favorite Aspect of job:
I love going out on the ship to collect samples at sea. Being out on the open ocean reminds me of the “big picture”, of the important reasons why I’m doing the research I do. It’s easy to forget that when I spend long periods of time in the lab. I also really enjoy deploying all the different types of instruments that we use to collect scientific samples at sea; some of the engineering that goes into making oceanography happen is genius!

 What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job:
I got my bachelor’s degree in Earth and Planetary Science, and was first introduced to marine chemistry during the two summers I spent as an undergraduate on the Great Barrier Reef, reconstructing El Niño signals recorded in 10,000 year-old corals. This experience cemented my fascination with how our planet – and particularly our oceans – work. Ultimately, however, taking math and science courses, and taking advantage of field trip and lab work opportunities was the best preparation for this job.

Ali Hochberg

Ali Hochberg -Education and Development Coordinator
Ali Hochberg -Education and Development Coordinator

Job Title:
Education and Communications Coordinator
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences

What She does:
Varies from day to day, but includes writing press releases, newspaper articles, newsletter articles; managing social media accounts; assisting with the creation of short- and long-term audience and donor development and communication strategies; working with faculty to highlight current and future science endeavors; identifying new avenues of publication and promotion within local and international circles; website content and design development; creation and design of new marketing materials.

Favorite Aspect of job:
Using my science background to translate the work of science faculty and staff into materials that can be understood by wider audiences.

What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job:
A science background is crucial, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to understand the details of the research taking place, but experience in public education/outreach, marketing/advertising, and writing are also invaluable.

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