Where did you grow up?
I grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Iowa. My Dad loved to experiment with other crops, such as asparagus, sweet corn, blueberries, grapes, tomatoes, and potatoes.
What is your educational background?
I studied marine biology at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia and graduated from the University of Hawaii, Manoa with a degree in Zoology & Conservation in Marine Ecosystems. I also hold a minor in Marine Mammal Education.
Is there a book, quote, or person that influenced you to be the person that you are today?
Yes, a verse from a hymn has helped shape my career and my conversations with the public. "Speak gently, it is better far to rule by love than fear; Speak gently, let no harsh word mar the good we may do here."
What does being a career civil servant mean to you?
As a government employee, I have dedicated my life to serving the American public and the marine mammal populations of the United States. This dedication requires me to put my career and job responsibilities first—which many times means working long hours and on weekends and holidays.
What advice would you have for today’s youth interested in a federal government career?
Be willing to work jobs that will help grow your skill set and understand that each position will bring new skills and strengths to your resume.
What are some of your hobbies?
I love to be outside tending to my fruit, vegetable, and flower garden. I enjoy sailing with my husband and daughter and spend time hiking in the Pacific Northwest. I also have a blog and website that I enjoy maintaining.
Can you describe a typical day at work?
There is no typical day at work! Every day in my position is different which is one of the reasons why I love my job so much. We never know when the next marine mammal stranding will happen and where it will happen—so we are always adapting to the situation and preparing for different stranding scenarios.
What are you working on now?
Large whale entanglement, increasing rehabilitation capacity in the Pacific Northwest, pinniped entanglement response, and ship strike prevention.
Can you describe a project you worked on that was particularly interesting or enjoyable?
I wrote the Southern Resident Killer whale emergency response plan, which outlines how we would respond to an injured or otherwise compromised animal in urgent need of attention. This was a very challenging and complex project, but it will be invaluable if we have an animal that needs an intervention or emergency response.
What would you like students from a similar background to know?
I'm an Iowa farm girl who is now a marine mammal biologist! If you follow your heart and your passion, the right opportunity will open up for you at just the right time.