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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 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 to continue my path with animals through science ... though I can only recently put that into words that I understand. When I was younger, it was just a feeling that I knew I would become a scientist.
I have always loved the ocean. My family and I went to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, each summer for vacation. I grew up in Connecticut and went to the beach whenever possible. I have always loved animals ... I actively participated in Vo-Ag and FFA (Future Farmers of America) in high school, worked at a veterinary clinic and raised chickens in my backyard (Yes, in the city!). But, it wasn't until the summer after my sophomore year in college that I realized I could merge my love of animals with the ocean into a career. I was an intern with a whale watching company and worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. I loved every minute of it. After that summer, I read all I could about dolphins and whales and wrote to scientists for more information.
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, zoos and other facilities that might have information about the ocean or her marine inhabitants. Look for internship or volunteer programs. It's not enough any more to say "I want to study dolphins." You must begin to narrow your question(s) and focus. What do you want to study? What topic interests you? What information do you want to learn? And, while you are still with your parents, and they are paying the bills, is the best time to participate in volunteer programs ... you need to have experience to get experience. Volunteering for various groups will allow you to get experience but also help you to learn about your interests and to determine if this is truly the area you want to study and work in.
Vividly, I remember walking the beach with my dad or sitting on the dunes watching the water. Learning about currents and the animals we saw from my dad. I remember picking up shells with my mom and creating designs with them. I remember all the animals we had growing up and I remember my experiences on various farms. All served to encourage my love of science and animals.
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, specifically dolphins. 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. So, while my profession is still mainly male-dominated, I never let that stand in my way. I know what my capabilities are and do not let others dictate to me what I can or should do. This can be difficult to follow at times but the rewards are far-reaching. I am also happy to say there are several women studying marine mammals with higher degrees (Ph.D's and M.S's). Collaboration is the name of the game in any career, in my opinion, to succeed and achieve the best results.
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. I remember the first time I witnessed a huge fight among about 25 dolphins -- the variety of signals, the intensity of their sounds and actions. All just amazing. But I continue to be amazed with the information I learn. And, it is wonderful to be able to share that with other people, adults and kids alike.
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. Life is too short not to enjoy what we do day-to-day.
I am glad the quotes were added to the word typical in this question. It's 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 The Bahamas, on Roatan or Nassau or in Germany gathering data. If I am assisting with data collection from Bimini, I join Kel and the trips of guests to swim with dolphins whenever there is space on the boat. We spend about four hours per boat trip looking for and observing dolphins. It takes about 30 minutes minimum to prep my gear for the trip and about an hour to clean my gear and myself after a trip. Then, we log data sheets from the trip. When we are not on the boat, we analyze data -- videotapes for dolphin IDs and behaviors. When I was doing my dissertation in The Bahamas, we lived on the boat. So my days ran from sunrise till about midnight. I have always liked mornings because most folks are not awake yet. When on the boat, it's quiet and I prep the data sheets and gear for the day. When we see dolphins during a boat trip, we (researchers and eco-tourists) record data and sometimes swim with them and record their behavior underwater. After each swim we log data on data forms ... all of our observations and any dolphin IDs. The evenings are filled with informal presentations about dolphins, their lives and distribution and other information about ocean conservation.
At the field sites where I study captive dolphins, I coordinate my observation schedule around the staff's schedule for training. At RIMS, I'll conduct my first observation session before 8AM and then another one later in the morning. At DE, my observation sessions are between training programs, and this is the same at Zoo Duisburg. Because we know where the dolphins are at these three locations, my return on effort is much higher than in The Bahamas, or at Mikura Island, Japan.
In my office, when out of the field and analyzing data, I work mostly with my computer, the video and stereo audio data, and the video logs. Every video tape is logged such that we know who is in view, who they are with and for how long. Once the log is complete, I watch the videotapes and log dolphin behaviors on data forms and into the computer. Volunteers and interns are exceptionally helpful with this part of the data processing - i.e., creating the video logs and event-sampling the behavior and audio. For the audio data, I measure sounds using special software programs to examine spectrograms. I also write reports and grant applications. I also take walks with Dixie, our beagle, when she decides I need a break!
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. (I even wear a think wet suit in Roatan!) 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. But, I love reviewing the video tapes and analyzing the sounds because this is when the patterns become evident. For every hour of data I gather, there are at least 20 hours of analysis time! It's good I love that part of it!
I received a Bachelor's of Science (B.S.) 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 behavior and communication. I also did several internships and volunteer programs at various facilities including the whale watch internship, work with Mystic Marinelife Aquarium and more. Experience is key to clarifying what it is you want to learn and study.
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. There are lighthearted podcasts dedicated exclusively to Harry Potter, as well as a plethora of amateur podcasts about, well, nothing at all.
You can download episodes of The Dolphin Pod directly from our main webpage, where you can also listen to episodes using our built in flash player. To have episodes downloaded automatically to your computer, you need to subscribe to The Dolphin Pod feed. To do this, you will need a software program that knows how to look for and download podcasts from the internet - these are called 'podcatchers' or 'aggregators', and are usually free. The most popular podcatcher is iTunes, which you can download for free for both Mac and PC. Other popular software includes Juice, and Yahoo Podcasts. Once you have installed one of these podcatchers, you need to enter in the subscription feed for The Dolphin Pod, which is:
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To manually subscribe to The Dolphin Pod with iTunes, do the following: open iTunes, click on advanced from the menu option at the top of your player and select 'Subscribe to Podcast', in the window that appears type or paste the following address: http://www.dolphincommunicationproject.org/thedolphinpod.xml
*NOTE: You will often see a little button like this , but if you simply click on it, meaningless XML script will appear in your browser. If you find one of these buttons for a podcast you want to subscribe to, you need to copy the link location shortcut that it is associated with (right click for PC) into your podcatcher in order to subscribe.
Not at all! The Dolphin Pod, like almost all podcasts, is free!
Your host for The Dolphin Pod is Justin Gregg - a research associate with The Dolphin Communication Project.
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