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A love affair with the ocean

Pursing a career in marine science requires a deep affection for aquatic environments. So, in honor of World Oceans Day, we asked faculty and staff at Northeastern’s Marine Science Center what they find so fascinating about the ocean.

Alessandra Scripa, S’19, outreach co-op and marine biology major

I love studying the ocean because there is so much that we still don’t know that is open to exploration. Pursuing a career in marine science means a lot to me not only because I enjoy visiting the ocean, but also because studying marine science makes me feel like I could make a difference. Seeing what is happening to the ocean in response to climate change, pollution, and over-exploitation makes me really motivated to get involved and make change, especially since so many people in the world depend on the ocean for food or their livelihood.

Charlotte Seid, staff scientist at Northeastern’s Ocean Genome Legacy Center

I’m fascinated by the ocean’s biodiversity, especially the DNA that encodes the amazing adaptations, evolutionary histories, and vulnerabilities of marine life. Growing up, I’d always loved visiting aquariums and identifying strange things I’d find on the beach, but I also wanted to understand how life works at the level of biochemistry and information.

Brian Helmuth, professor with joint appointments in the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs

I’ve been fascinated by marine animals for as long as I can remember. While marine mammals like whales and dolphins are certainly very cool, what has always interested me the most are the invertebrates. They experience their world in such a diversity of ways that are so incredibly different from humans. Being able to dive and for at least a short time become part of that world is the best job ever.

The ocean remains an avenue for high adventure, for meditation, and a cure for my perpetual wanderlust.
— Carole McCauley, outreach program coordinator

Val Perini, outreach program instructor

I am fascinated by the natural world, and the ocean is one of the most mysterious and diverse parts of it. From the tiniest phytoplankton to the largest whales, each living thing fits into the larger clockwork of the global ocean ecosystem, of which we are a part. Our connection to the ocean ranges from the vast resources we extract from it, to its ability to regulate our climate and make our planet habitable. My passion for my work in the field of marine science comes from this deep appreciation for the ocean, and desire to inspire this appreciation and stewardship in others.

David Kimbro, assistant professor in the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences

I just loved the physical sensation of being in and playing in the water—the cooling effect in hot summer, being swayed by the wave action. With the physical sensation, it is just super cool to then look around at all of the visual stimulation of animal life. Because I often saw a lot of these things altered by human activity, I wanted to pursue a career to help better understand the ecosystem so that we can better conserve and restore it.

David Dawson II, academic program assistant

Whenever I’m feeling stressed out, the sound and motion of the ocean can always relax me. Watching the waves crash against the rocks, hearing the roar of the water, and standing on the beach as the tide slowly creeps closer and closer.

Dan Distel, research professor and director of the Ocean Genome Legacy Center

For me, it is the mystery and grandeur of the ocean that I find most intriguing. It accounts for more than 90 percent of the biosphere. For most of the world’s inhabitants, it sits right at our doorstep. Yet we know so little about it. Life started there, likely as many as 3 billion years before it gained a foothold on land. That means that the vast majority of evolutionary history occurred in the ocean before the first plants and animals appeared on land. So, fundamentally, we are all marine organisms and the ocean is our long forgotten home.

Robert Murphy, Jr., PhD’18, doctoral candidate studying the striped bass and its fisheries in southern New England

Growing up on the Connecticut River, I spent most of my free time fishing with my father and uncle and learned firsthand about the intricacy of natural ecosystems. I was introduced to the science of ecology at an early age, as I learned how to catch more fish by paying close attention to the annual cycle of fish migrations, the timing of certain fly hatches, and the vertical distribution of fish in response to water temperature. The amazing complexity of ecosystems captured my curiosity, which eventually led me to pursue a career in marine science.

I just loved the physical sensation of being in and playing in the water—the cooling effect in hot summer, being swayed by the wave action.
— David Kimbro, assistant professor in the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences

Kelsi Furman, research assistant

I was motivated to join the field of marine science because I love learning about how humans impact marine ecosystems, in both positive and negative ways, and furthermore how we perceive these impacts as a society. I hope to be able to educate others on our current environmental issues and make a positive impact on society to help better our marine ecosystems.

Rachel Gittman, postdoctoral research associate

I have been drawn to the vast and dynamic expanse of the ocean since I was a child standing on the shore with my toes in the cool summer waters of the North Atlantic. As a society, we are drawn to ocean coasts, thus we live, develop, and ultimately degrade our beloved coastlines. My interest in pursuing a career in marine science was sparked by the realization that by better understanding our coastal environments and the ecosystem services they provide, we can learn to live along and develop our coastlines in an ecologically and socially more sustainable and resilient way.

For me, it is the mystery and grandeur of the ocean that I find most intriguing.
— Dan Distel, research professor and director of the Ocean Genome Legacy Center

Carole McCauley, outreach program coordinator

My love for the ocean stemmed from spending childhood summers sailing in Buzzards Bay and downeast Maine. The promise of a new harbor and the requisite dinghy trip to explore its bounds, steering northward under the light of the moon, collecting strands of seaweed with a boat hook as we rhythmically sliced our way forward through the green sea, crawling into my sleeping bag despite salt-crusted skin for the deepest of sleeps. For me, the ocean remains an avenue for high adventure, for meditation, and a cure for my perpetual wanderlust.

Jonathan Puritz, postdoctoral research associate

As a child, I was truly fascinated that life could exist underwater and I loved learning about marine life. In college, I became obsessed with the diversity of marine invertebrate life and the many different ways life had adapted to living in the ocean. Spending a summer internship as an undergraduate investigating pesticide effects on lobster larvae in Maine, I found a calling to understand how marine populations and species were adapting to anthropogenic pressures such as coastal pollution and climate change.

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