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Careers in Science

Andrew Bakun
Oceanographer

How did you choose your present profession?
Boyhood dreams: of adventures at sea, beautiful places (and people), fascinating animals — and the powerful, mysterious ocean.

What were your biggest motivators?
Thor Heyerdahl, Rachel Carson, my mother, my father, my uncle Al.

Who were/are your greatest mentors/heroes?
Warren Wooster, Hector of Troy, Robert Kennedy

Was there a pivotal event in your life that helped you decide on your career path?
I managed to convince my father that the first two years of an oceanography degree could also comprise the first two years of a college degree in chemistry (that could lead to some prospect of gainful employment).

What has been the biggest surprise in your life as a scientist?
Novel esthetically-pleasing ideas, based on limited data, that seem to somewhat account for what one sees, turn out (miraculously) to be correct.

What do you like best about your profession?
Fascination (with a puzzle without end) — I don't need any additional hobbies.

What would you say has been your greatest achievement?
A view of marine ecosystems as continually changing, developing, and evolving systems — like a "symphony" that is enriched with recurring themes but is never repetitive, never the same. (I'm still trying to "sell" that view to my ever skeptical, more "mathematical" colleagues.)

Are you optimistic for the future of the planet and if so why?
Yes. Because pessimism is no fun at all. And "trends to doom" always seem to be interrupted in some way (I've lived through "inevitable nuclear holocaust", "inevitable global mass starvation", etc., etc., etc.). But, that said, I am concerned for our planet, to say the least.

What are your greatest fears for the future of the planet?
That it won't be as wonderful and fascinating and beautiful as it has been for me.

What’s the one message you would like the next generation of scientists to hear?
Seek truth, not acceptance. Acceptance will take care of itself.

What web sites, books, articles and other lay person references would you recommend for viewers interested in your work featured in Strange Days on Planet Earth?

Bakun, A. and S.J. Weeks. 2004. Greenhouse gas buildup, sardines, submarine eruptions, and the possibility of abrupt degradation of intense marine upwelling ecosystems. Ecology Letters 7: 1015-1023.

Bakun, A. and S.J. Weeks. 2006. Adverse feedback sequences in exploited marine ecosystems: Are deliberate interruptive actions warranted? Fish and Fisheries 7: 316-333.

Bakun, A. 1996. Patterns in the Ocean: Ocean Processes and Marine Population Dynamics. University of California Sea Grant, San Diego, California, USA, in cooperation with Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas de Noroeste, La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. 323 pp. [PDF of article freely downloadable at http://www.rsmas.miami.edu/divs/mbf/People/Faculty/Bakun/Publications/] Off-site Link

Visit Bakun's bio page »


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