Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts describing how we became marine mammal researchers! Each week we’ll highlight one of our staff or interns who, in their own words, will describe how they ended up where they are today. As many of us know, getting into marine mammal research can often be very difficult, requiring a lot of patience and persistence. We wanted to give everyone interested in pursuing a career in this field an idea of just some different routes you can take to enter into this field of work, and we also wanted to share a bit more about our staff personally!
Our first entry below is from our current intern, Trevor Derie:
My name is Trevor Derie, a recently graduated student from the University of Washington in Seattle! I grew up in and currently am a resident of Anacortes, Washington and an intern for Pacific Mammal Research. After attending Anacortes High School, I applied to a few schools but ended up choosing the University of Washington. After a complicated and confusing few months of a developing new marine biology undergraduate major to be available during my time at UW (only to be ready during my final quarter), I ended up double majoring in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and Evolutionary, Ecology Conservation Biology, gaining knowledge of both marine and terrestrial environments.
Growing up in Anacortes established my interest in marine science, particularly in the marine mammal field. As Anacortes is surrounded by a unique and pristine aquatic environment, my family and I would always be at the beaches in the tide pools of Rosario Beach and Washington Park. Similar to other kids at the beach, I would constantly look around and find all the animals I could, such as hermit crabs or sea stars. However, as other kids ended up becoming more interested in technology, business, or other fields, I kept my focus on marine life and remained curious about what was underwater that was not immediately seen from above. I was always fascinated by how different life and the environment is underwater, where it is much more difficult to access and therefore more exciting when you get to see what is revealed by low tides or diving. Additionally, I was amazed by just how large and intelligent marine mammals were in the ocean and how there is still so much we do not know, at the time being particularly interested in the local Southern Resident Killer Whale population in the San Juan Islands.
As I got older and more educated, I began learning and realizing how much we still do not know about the ocean and the threats we as humans are imposing to the various ecosystems of the sea. Through the University of Washington, I learned about issues that I had never considered or heard of when it comes to the ocean, such as the deafening noise produced from vessels or chemical/temperature issues, namely ocean acidification and warming. I began working on various projects while at the university exploring such topics including health analysis of salmonids and invertebrates and my senior thesis on local oyster and mussel sex maturation. Through this, my interests shifted more towards research and what we can do to help fix some of these issues or help prevent further damage we are causing.
After studying abroad on the east coast of Australia at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, I began to narrow down the topics I want to focus on in the future when I eventually attend graduate school. With more exposure and experience with coral ecosystems on the Great Barrier Reef and seeing how diverse that community is, I became particularly interested in studying these animals and how we can help them from the impending ocean warming/acidification crisis, helping with research both at UQ and UW. This, however, is not my sole interest – marine mammals have always been a passion of mine, and I love conducting research on how we can minimize our impact on them or better understand their ways of life, such as by means of reducing noise pollution or learning more about their social structure and intelligence. By working on a local whale watching boat in Anacortes and on wild dugong health analysis in Australia, I further delved into marine mammal science and would love the opportunity to further my career in this field! This internship with Pacific Mammal Research is offering me an amazing opportunity to study our local marine mammals (harbor seals and porpoises in particular) and work on a different kind of project than other research groups, and I am excited to be a part of it in any way that I can!