What do you do?
I study people! My work thinks about the people side of fisheries, natural resources, and the environment. It’s super important that we understand things like biology and ecology, but we also need to study people if we want to work toward sustainability and conservation. My work answers questions like “what makes people have certain attitudes or feel certain ways about conservation?” and “why do people do certain conservation behaviors, like using gear that helps fish or taking care of their lawn in ways that help nearby water bodies?”. I also study how we as scientists and managers can better work together with community members through things like citizen science and participatory management (which just means an approach that brings the public and managers/scientists together to make decisions).
Why did you choose this field?
Before I started working with people, I was a marine biologist and ecologist. I always knew I wanted to be a marine biologist and do work that helped our oceans and the animals that live in them. During college I worked with all sorts of species and systems (including sea snakes and stingrays!), and after college I worked for a few years at the Florida Museum of Natural History and with the Florida Program for Shark Research. It was a combination of experiences working with shark research and an undergraduate class in fisheries that got me excited about focusing in on fisheries science, as I felt that was a place I could do work that had a positive impact. Plus I have a lot of friends and family who love to fish (and I like to fish too), so I felt a connection there as well. I got my Master’s degree in fisheries science working with a cool fish called the greater amberjack and looking at their population structure and movement. I was almost set to keep going with this type of work when I took a class on fisheries management in my last year and found out about human dimensions. I got super excited and immediately asked my teacher if I could do a Ph.D. with him and become a social scientist, and he said yes!
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I am super super shy, and was even more so when I was a kid, and a younger me would never have thought that one day I would be standing up leading meetings or talking to large groups of people.
Why do you love working in STEM?
My favorite part of working in STEM is that I get to ask questions and then find answers that no one else knows. I wake up looking forward to discovery!
Best advice for next generation?
Go for it! Some of the most interesting work I know of was initially boo-hooed. People might tell you it’s not a good question, or it’s not something that will be interesting, but they might be wrong, and if it is something that excites you then give it a try! Also, make sure to support each other. Sometimes STEM culture can make it feel like you are in a competition with only one winner, and so you have to outcompete your friends or especially other women. But that isn’t true, we can all do great things! We as STEM girls and women can band together and help each other, and together we can all succeed and do some amazing science.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
My hero/role model was Steve Irwin, and for fun my kids and I (I have two toddler sons) like to go out and look for animals and especially reptiles.