We asked each of our scientists to give us their thoughts on their professions and what they think the future holds for humanity.
What would you recommend for students wanting to pursue a similar career?
Many people share an interest in whales and dolphins; competition is heavy. In order to maximize your chances, it is important to remember that qualifications as a scientist, a communicator and a team player are more in demand than simply passion or enthusiasm for these animals. It is therefore necessary to prepare one's "tools." To become a whale researcher, you must have:
- a solid background in science combined with a variety of experience;
- good writing skills and an ability to make oral presentations, in either English or French [in my case];
- a mastery of the English language, both written and oral and possibly another language such as Spanish;
- a university education, depending on the job sought.
The study of whales or dolphins is a vast field; few universities offer specialized programs. The best thing to do is to speak to a guidance counselor and visit several universities to get to know their programs. Depending on your interests, you may require a simple bachelor's degree, or you may decide to continue on to the PhD level.
There are a variety of jobs related to the world of marine mammals, for example, research, laboratory techniques, training of animals in captivity, veterinary medicine and nature interpretation.
What is most important is to be informed, discover your interests and take advantage of every opportunity to gain experience.
For more details, consult the advice column of the Society for Marine Mammalogy.
What do you like best about your profession?
My job [has] allowed me to fulfill several personal goals: spend as much time as possible outside, at sea; study one of the strangest animals on the planet; communicate my passion; hopefully contribute to making our planet a better place to live.
What makes you most fearful for the future?
I can't imagine a world where elephants and whales only survived in children's books!
What makes you most hopeful for the future?
I have seen people's attitude toward nature and society move by their encounters with wildlife and with whales in particular. I hope that by sharing what we [have] learned about other living beings, about their societies, about their "culture," we will accept sharing the planet with them.