The Versatile Ecologist

I spent most of the summer eagerly waiting for a piece of equipment (components of which we are still waiting on), and physically could not wait to start my thesis experiments. I probably wasn’t as prepared as I should have been when I was scuba diving with a friend for her project in the cold water of Santa Barbara, and impulsively decided to collect some kelp for my project. It wasn’t more than 30 minutes after getting out of the water that the panic started to set in. I immediately made a mental to-do list: fix shelves, hang lights, make nutrient media, set up microscope. Once the list started to overwhelm me, I thought, “We are so much more than ecologists.” Immediately one of those “What I Really Do” memes popped into my head. Do I even know what I do…?


Over the next 48 hours I went to Lowes three times, built 9 shelves, lifted an absurdly heavy cooler full of kelp, wired the cold room for heating pads and grow lamps, cried 6 times, oh, and I imaged 432 microscope slides. Every trip across campus with my Lowes buckets, extension cords, Erlenmeyer flasks, and plywood, I think to myself, “If these people had to guess what my career was, how many would guess correctly?” Here’s the list that I came up in the many hours that I have spent at the microscope since starting my experiment:

  • Electrician
  • Carpenter
  • Maintenance woman
  • Professional weightlifter
  • Undergraduate research assistant
  • Engineer
  • Chemist
  • Marine biologist?

In all of the moments that I spent dreaming of becoming a scientist, I never once expected that I would really be an engineer, electrician, and marine biologist. As stressful as running experiments may be, it is pretty awesome to realize how versatile we all are.  So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or unimpressed with yourself, sit back and think about how many skills you have that you don’t even realize.



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