Advice for people interested in a career studying marine mammals

Robin W. Baird

I am often asked for advice by prospective graduate students or others interested in working with marine mammals, so I have included below some advice/comments I've provided in the past.

In terms of my progression in the field, I started working with marine mammals first volunteering with a non-profit research group, and through it started up the research project that would later morph into my graduate work. I was then fortunate to be accepted into a graduate program with a supervisor who was (is) a strong scientist studying behavioral ecology (he had no background with marine mammals). Although I wanted to go straight into a Ph.D. program, my supervisor made me start in a Masters program. Although I was pissed off at the time, it was a good idea - you should learn whether you and your supervisor get along, whether your project is going to work out, whether you like the university, whether you can get funding, etc, before going straight into a Ph.D. program. In my case all of these worked out, I spent two years in the Masters program, and then switched into a Ph.D. program. Rather than just working on my thesis, I started and continued involvement with studies of a diversity of species and questions, which was extremely important in terms of gaining flexibility and experience beyond the somewhat narrow topic of my thesis. For students pursuing a career studying marine mammals, I have some advice (in no particular order):

And before you ask whether I am accepting graduate students, although I have affiliate positions with two universities (University of Washington, Hawai‘i Pacific University), I cannot accept graduate students, although I can serve on graduate student committees. Do you want to work with killer whales? While admittedly I have spent much of my career studying killer whales, my primary research interests relate to biology and management of Hawaiian odontocetes, and I am not interested in supervising or co-supervising students working on killer whales or taking on any new projects with killer whales. Want to do an internship related to killer whales? We do accept interns but not to work on killer whales - if you are interested in an internship related to Hawai‘i odontocetes or (non-killer whale) west coast species see our intern page.

Updated March 2014