Starting in 1997, I spent six years with the SDRP as a doctoral student in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution joint program. I was fortunate to closely collaborate on my dissertation with another SDRP graduate student, Edward Owen. We both were interested in the social dynamics of pair-bonded adult male dolphins, and my dissertation focused on how males use whistles to communicate with one another and mediate the pair-bond. We spent 4 field seasons following just 12 adult males around Sarasota Bay. My time in Sarasota provided invaluable lessons on field biology, boat maintenance, electronics repair, and how to determine which types of clouds are preludes to lightning.
After a post-doc at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, I accepted a position with the US Navy in Newport, Rhode Island. In my current position, I conduct research on the impacts of anthropogenic activities on marine species, assist in the management of a portion of the Navy’s Marine Species Monitoring Program, and work with a large team to develop models to estimate the impacts of sound exposure on marine species. In these efforts Sarasota has proven a useful training ground. Skills I developed towing a hydrophone array through Sarasota Bay are still in use as I listen for beaked whales on the Navy’s much larger hydrophone ranges, while my time spent observing dolphins from a boat enabled me to become an effective marine species observer on Navy ships. Finally, learning to collaborate and work as part of a larger team serves me well in inter-government agency projects, such as a current one studying habitat use and migration of fish and sea turtles in Florida with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, NASA, and the Air Force.
Working for the Navy has been rewarding, as I am able to continue pursuing basic research, but also play a role in shaping policy. While this is a career path I never envisioned, keeping an open mind has led me in many directions and afforded many interesting opportunities.
This article appeared on page 31 of the 2017 SDRP Annual Report, Nicks n Notches.