Kristofer (Kristof) Ketch
My journey wasn’t as easy as it looks here, but it gives a story. Try new things, be persistent in pursuing interests, but also remember to reflect and really think about what it is you want to do.
For me, it all began with a high school science club video of prior trips they’d done to Belize. I wanted to scuba dive the barrier reef, which led me to work through high school at a family-owned pet store in order to go on the trip after my senior year. The Belize trip was everything I had hoped for and more, and I discovered I am in my element when scuba diving.
I was really good at math and chemistry, so I started out college pursuing chemical engineering. After a couple of years, I realized that I liked learning about chemistry, but that I didn’t really want to spend my life in a chem lab, so I thought hard about what I wanted to do. I realized I had a knack and interest in remembering fish species names and the nuances of species compatibility and care from the aquarium trade, so why not pursue marine biology, especially since there’s a chance I could end up spending more time diving in the tropics. The only problem was my college in Minnesota was what was affordable for me because of in-state tuition. Well, I took every course I could relate to fish biology, limnology, and oceanography and charted my own course path culminating in studying abroad in the Turks & Caicos with the School for Field Studies program. Studying abroad was amazing, and while the debt I accumulated continues to be burdensome, it was well worth it for the experiences of both the classes and the new perspectives on life you get from seeing other parts of the world and the challenges they face.
I graduated in the winter of 2009 into a historic recession and couldn’t get into a job that really interested me despite several promising interviews. I continued working for the same pet store I had worked at during high school off and on during college but for less pay because of the recession, which wasn’t sustainable for paying off a mountain of student loan debt. It was probably the most difficult time in my life, but I stayed persistent and it eventually paid off. It took a year, but I finally got into something, and it’s with a program that I’m still with. My first career job was as a NEFOP and IFS observer for the NEFSC.
Observing was a challenging adventure that I really enjoyed, but after a change in the contract, I decided to move into the observer program office as a data debriefer. As a debriefer, I have found that I really enjoy being a mentor to my group of observers. Just like each trip as an observer is a different challenge, reviewing each trip from my observers and guiding improvement in each observer is also a new challenge every time. I have also enjoyed numerous opportunities assisting with outreach events and going to sea on a wide variety of fishery surveys and fishery-dependent research trips. Not only was that work a lot of fun, but they were great experiences for meeting new people and learning about the science they do as well as how the data I’ve helped collect and review gets used. For me, there’s nothing better than working with and learning from people who also love science.