What is The Dolphin Pod?

What the heck is a Podcast? Podcasts are audio and video files that you can download to your computer and listen to whenever you want. The name 'podcast' is a bit misleading – you do not need an iPod to listen to a podcast; anyone with a computer and an internet connection can download podcasts. Podcasts often sound a lot like a traditional radio broadcasts, but style and content vary depending on the subject matter. For instance; NPR offers podcasts of their popular radio programs, MIT provides podcasts of lectures for undergraduate classes.

What classes do you recommend that I take to better prepare myself for a career such as yours?

I recommend that you take classes in the different sciences — math, physics, chemistry, biology. I know … I wasn't too fond of physics the first time, but I now see how it is applied and important. Besides giving you a solid foundation to pursue more science electives and such in college, you will gain experience in science to determine if this is something that truly interests you. I firmly believe that we should follow a career or have a job we like and are happy doing.

What advice do you have for people interested in dolphin and marine animal research?

I would advise you to read about the different topics and animals that you find interesting. To write to the authors and other scientists to learn more about their work. Ask for reprints of their work. Visit aquaria and other facilities that might have information about the ocean or her marine inhabitants. Look for internship or volunteer programs. It is not enough any more to say "I want to study dolphins." You must begin to narrow your question and focus.

What are some of your most memorable experiences?

I remember the first time I saw a dolphin under water … the first swim I had with a dolphin. It was July 1991. I remember she was a young dolphin, few spots. I remember the emotions I felt and the swim. I remember living and working on a boat and the feel of the boat's motion in calm seas and choppy weather. All exhilarating. I remember walks on the beach with my mom and dad and sisters. These walks inspired and fostered my love of the ocean and her creatures.

What is your favorite and least favorite thing about your career?

My least favorite thing is the cold water in Japan and Argentina. Sounds corny I know, but I am a cold water wimp! I routinely wear two wet suits when I work in those areas gathering data. My most favorite part may be surprising to many people – I love the data analysis part of my work. Yes, swimming among the dolphins is cool too. However, I love reviewing the video tapes and analyzing the sounds because this is when the patterns become evident.

What is a “typical” day like?

I am glad the parenthetical part was added to this question. It is true there is no typical day for me. My day depends on whether I am in the field gathering data or in my office analyzing data. And, for the former, my day also depends on whether I am in Japan or the Bahamas gathering data. If I am gathering data in Japan, I join trips of guests to swim with dolphins whenever there is space on the boat. We spend about three hours per boat trip looking for and observing dolphins.

What are some of the obstacles you’ve encountered while pursuing this career?

Career-wise, I did encounter a few people who told me I would never find a paying job in this profession … i.e., the study of marine mammals. But I knew what I wanted to do and what my passion was and thus I pursued it. I strongly believe that a person should find their passion, the thing that truly makes them happy, and then pursue it. Life is too short to be unhappy. I was lucky because my parents taught my sisters and me to be independent and to do our best in everything. They were exceptionally supportive.

Where did you train and study for this career?

I received a Bachelor's of Science (BS) degree from the University of Connecticut in Biology. I wanted to be sure I had a solid background in the sciences (math, chemistry, biology, etc.) before I continued with graduate school. I received my Ph.D. in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University. As a graduate student, you design your own program with a committee of professors. My studies focused on dolphin and whale behavior and communication.

Did someone inspire you to pursue your career and if so, who?

My parents were my two biggest inspirations … but not because they were scientists. They taught my sisters and me to be independent and to question what we did not understand. After them, I'd say my two biggest influences were three science teachers, in middle school, high school and college. They were hard teachers but also fair. They inspired me to want to learn and continue my path with animals through science … though I only recently can put that into words I can understand.