So You Want To Be A Marine Biologist?

73dolphinhate.gif To kick off the new badge “I’m a marine biologist and, to be honest, I kind of hate dolphins”, Science Creative Quarterly has published an article about the realities of being a marine biologist. Milton states it clearly.

Just be honest with yourself. If you want to talk to dolphins you don’t want to be a [marine] biologist. What you really want to do is explore your past lives, get in touch with the Cosmic Oneness and conduct similar-minded individuals on tours to Central America looking for evidence that We Are Not Alone. Our experience is that people who feel this way last about 6.5 minutes in any biology program.

With this new badge, which I rightfully claim, I am announcing my entry into the ORDER OF THE SCIENCE SCOUTS OF EXEMPLARY REPUTE AND ABOVE AVERAGE PHYSIQUE. My list of current badges is below the fold.


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01talk.jpg02macgyver.jpg
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07crafts.jpg10quackery.jpg15appliance.jpg27invertebrate.jpg29respect.jpg31useless.jpg33tadpole.jpg34adminsucks.jpg
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  • The “talking science” badge. Required for all members. Assumes the recipient conducts himself/herself in such a manner as to talk science whenever he/she gets the chance. Not easily fazed by looks of disinterest from friends or the act of “zoning out” by well intentioned loved ones.
  • The “MacGyver” badge. In which the recipient has demonstrated that his/her science communciation prowess was handy in simplifying a potentially challenging scenario. On my way to a scientific meeting in my 67 Fairlane, my throttle cable broke. I replaced it with a piece cut from electrical cord from a desk lamp in my trunk. I made the meeting and gave my talk.
  • The “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, I’ve got a TV gig” badge. In which the recipient plays a significant science performance role in TV. Hopefully
  • The “I blog about science” badge. Obviously
  • The “arts and crafts” badge. Because you can’t have a bunch of badges without an arts and crafts badge. This one assumes the recipient has all manner of “craftiness” with a sciencegeek twist. I once taught arts and crafts at a Girl’s Club. One project was to build an octopus out of clay.
  • The “destroyer of quackery” badge. In which the recipient never ever backs down from an argument that pits sound science over quackery. Here.
  • The “my degree inadvertantly makes me competent in fixing household appliances” badge. Fixing equipment at sea is my specialty. Apparently my power comes from the salt air because my attempts around the house are less than successful.
  • The “I can be a prick when it comes to science” badge. In which the recipient can be so passionate about things of a scientific nature, that he/she may appear surly, rude, and/or unpleasant. I’m a prick when I don’t talk about science.
  • The “respect me – I’ve published at an upper tier publication for popular science readership” badge. American Naturalist, Evolution, and Evolution again
  • The “inordinately fond of invertebrate” badge.
    In which the recipient professes an arguably unhealthy affinity for things of this category. Obviously.
  • The “I’ve done science with no conceivable practical application” badge. And I will continue to to do so.
  • The “I know what a tadpole is” badge.In which the recipient knows what a tadpole is. Basically, an easy way to get a badge that looks a little like the semen one above.
  • The “I’m a scientist who is fundamentally opposed to administrative duties” badge. I have said more than once, I wish I could just be left alone to do my science.
  • The “science has forced me to seek medical attention” badge. In which the recipient has had to pay a visit to the hospital as a result of scientific work. In an unfortunate accident in the middle of the Pacific, I injured my knee which required a trip to the hospital when we returned to shore in Hawaii.
  • The “somewhat confused as to what scientific field I actually belong to” badge. Macroecology, biogeography, marine biology, evolutionary ecology, experimental ecology, deep-sea biology, molluscan biology, theoretical biology, etc.
  • The “statistical linear regression” badge. We figured that if you actually know what those three words together mean, then you deserve a badge. Statistics rock! I have actually went one step further and advocated a particular statistical method.
  • The “world’s foremost expert on an obscure subject” badge. In which the recipient is the leading expert in a field that few others share an interest in. Deep-sea gastropods…enough said.
  • The “works with acids” badge.
  • The “works with feces” badge. All detritus arriving at the seafloor has probably went through the digestive track of something.
  • The “I may look like a scientist, but I’m actually also a pirate” badge.Drinks rum. Into pillaging and stuff. Soft spot for evolutionary biology. Of course!
  • The “what I do for science dictates my having to wash my hands before I use the toilet” badge. Formalin and my genitalia don’t mix.
  • The “I actually grew up AND became a marine biologist” badge.
    Out of the millions of children who aspire to work with dolphins and their ilk, this recipient is actually someone who does precisely that.
Dr. M (1618 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





16 comments on “So You Want To Be A Marine Biologist?
  1. Dear Milton:
    Deep Sea News led me to your post at the Science Creative Quarterly,” So you want to be a marine biologist,” which I am (among other things). While I never desired to talk to dolphins, several of your other bad reasons were just those that led me to the university and marine biology 45 years ago (substitute “Lady with a Spear,” by Eugenie Clark for Cousteau. The prospect of surfing —which I did as much as anything else as an undergrad — also figured heavily in my decision; you also could include scuba diving and beach volleyball in the list) . Dunno what the insight is here except young people move past the fantasies of their youth, especially in environments such as great universities. My son has just graduated from your university and is going to grad school in statistics, after being attracted there four years ago by surfing and the fantasy of playing intercollegiate tennis. Your “no dolphin” badge should become all the rage in the industrial fishing industry.
    regards, Don

  2. I know someone attacked by a dolphin. He used to love them, but the dolphin broke a few ribs, so now he’s now kind of ambivalent. He switched to hugging turtles.

  3. I’ve never met a vertebrate I could trust…

    You could just as easily put a shark there too though. I get lots of undergrads coming up to me “Dude, do you get to work with sharks. I want to be a marine biologist so I can work with sharks.”

  4. I’d take my chances with the sharks over the dolphins. i’d rather be gnawed on by a shark than humped by a squeaky pervert of the sea.

    (marine biologist in training who wants to work with sharks and rays and seahorses and and oh, hey, those critters look neat….just no dolpins, please. )

  5. So it sounds as though you grew up to be what you always wanted to be. Other than the knee accident, have you experienced any other mishaps being a marine biologist?

  6. Can non-marine-biologists use your badge? I don’t really hate dolphins but I hate all the fuss around them.

  7. I’d love it if we could to talk to dolphins, just so I could stick a rolled up, double-spaced, printed one side copy of the pdf up the arses of the human exceptionalists. Does that make be a bad person?

    (I suspect that any such experience would be about as “conciousness-raising” as listening to a bunch of 1st-graders at lunch time)

  8. I’d like to claim an arts and crafts badge. I’m not the marine variety of biologist, but I have crocheted a number of marine invertebrates: dorid nudibranchs, an Aplysia, sea lettuce, and sea urchin pluteus larvae.

    I had a world explorer game as a kid; I always wanted to be the marine zoologist, even though it was the lowest-paying job on the team. ;-)

  9. Love the badge, and really wish I had had one when I was in college. My major? Marine Biology. Reason why? I just loved (and still do) fish of all sizes and forms. Roommate? Yes, a dolphin-loving whackjob who was convinced that sharks were nothing but dirty, filthy, eating machines. She did not last in our rigorous program . . .

    And it took me years to teach my family that marine biologists do not all love to get gifts that feature dolphins! Fish, people, send me cool fish stuff. Oh, well if anyone knows of a cool ctenophore gift, that would be fine too.

  10. “All detritus arriving at the seafloor has probably went through the digestive track of something.”

    I’m gonna have to go ahead and be a nit-picky dork and disagree with you when you say ALL detritus…20 billion tons of continentally-derived detritus ends up on the ocean floor every year (largely from rivers). I would guess that most of this terrigenous sediment was not pooped out…but maybe a little of it.

    If you’re talking about true pelagic detritus out in the open ocean, away from the margins, then you’re probably right.

    Nice badges…i’m jealous.

  11. The “respect me – I’ve published at an upper tier publication for popular science readership” badge. American Naturalist, Evolution, and Evolution again

    I thought that this badge was for “popular science readership” so I assumed this meant things like Discover, Scientific American, National Geographic, Seed, etc.

    If not, I’ll may have to add it to my collection (does my article in the Proceedings of the Royal Society count? It certainly counts for the “I have done science for no conceivable reason” badge)

  12. Ahh! But before I have touched/sample it how much of 20 billions tons (and its organic compounds) have made it through the digestive track of a bioturbator on the seafloor. In fact, how much of it was processed before it even made it to the ocean floor?

  13. Jim,
    Tough question about the badge…I took it to mean top-tier journals as the other badge above this concerns Science and Nature. But an further evaluation it may mean something like those you proposed. I defer to a scout leader.

  14. “But before I have touched/sample it how much of 20 billions tons (and its organic compounds) have made it through the digestive track of a bioturbator on the seafloor”

    good point…we’d have to tally it basin by basin…the Santa Monica Basin in its deepest parts, for example, is close to anoxic (little to no bioturbation evident).

    the coarse-grained detritus that gets down there via turbidity currents right from a river mouth probably didn’t go through much of a digestive track

    but, point well taken!!!

    I wonder what percentage of that 20 billion tons has gone through digestive track (or will by the time you sample it)…half?

    someone should figure that out…not me, i’m trying to finish!

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