Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Marine Biologists at Work

In an act of full disclosure, I have to tell you that today’s Cool Jobster, Lynne Barre, is my sister. I’m letting you in on this because one of the things that I think makes her current job seem so cool is the long journey I’ve watched her take over nearly the last two decades to get to where she is now.

While I myself have never had a clear idea of “what I want to be when I grow up”, Lynne knew from a tender age (i.e. there was a Shaun Cassidy poster on her bedroom wall) that she wanted a career working with marine mammals and has spent her time ever since not only studying hard (and reading the parts Moby Dick that I skipped), but traveling literally all over the world in order to further her career and her knowledge of marine mammals.

If you remember the news coverage of Springer, the orphaned killer whale rescued from Puget Sound and returned to the wild in 2002, then you are already familiar with Lynne’s work. She was a member of the National Marine Fisheries Service team that helped to bring an ailing Springer back to health and return her to the wild in the Johnstone Strait near Vancouver Island.

Despite (or maybe because of) the stories she’s told me about contracting a tropical disease doing fieldwork in Hawaii, diving out of a boat to rescue a sea turtle in Australia, and the difficulty of traveling internationally with a spear gun used to collect dolphin DNA samples…I definitely think Lynne has a very cool job!

When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?
I am a Marine Biologist and I work for the National Marine Fisheries Service. Recently I’ve been working on endangered Southern Resident killer whales in the Pacific Northwest (see link).

What are the things about your job that you love?

I love being part of the solution. I’m not buying anything, selling anything or processing anything….. I work on conservation of marine mammals. Saving the whales is more challenging than I imagined and I get to work with a diverse group of government and non-profit groups, the research community and concerned citizens. I also get to work with cool animals that are like us, but have made some amazing adaptations to living in the ocean. You’ve got to love the charismatic megafauna.
What are the things about your job that you hate?
I currently work for the federal government. The paperwork, politics and general bureaucracy can be a drag. On the bad days, I remind myself that sometimes you have to work within the system to make things better.
What education, training, vocation or just plain luck would someone have to have in order to get a job like yours?
If you can survive the organic chemistry and get a degree in science, that would be a good start. I have B.S. in Biology and an M.S. in Animal Behavior. I spent a few years working on research projects in Australia with dolphins, sea turtles and tiger sharks. I think a combination of science education and time in the field gives you a good perspective to tackle conservation problems. It also helps if you don’t get sea sick.
What is the funniest story you can think of that involves your professional training or your job?
Whenever I tell someone I’m a marine biologist, nine times out of ten the response I get is, “I love that Seinfeld episode where George pretends to be the marine biologist.” I find it amusing that George Costanza has replaced Jacques Cousteau as the icon of my profession. The sea was angry that day my friends…..

If you don’t recall the classic Seinfeld moment mentioned above, please be sure to click on the link to George Costanza for a clip from the episode. And because my mind is a repository of random facts, I would also like to mention that Jacques Cousteau’s research ship of the same name inspired John Denver to write Calypso in 1975.


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