Careers in Ichthyology
Cathy Bester - Former Education Coordinator at the Florida Museum of Natural History
- How did you become interested in ichthyology?
"I always had a strong interest in the outdoors, nature, and wildlife which eventually led to my decision to pursue a career in marine
biology. Throughout my childhood, I spent most of my time outdoors, observing and learning as much as possible about wildlife."
- What training and education do you have?
"I attended Bowling Green State University (Ohio) for my undergraduate degree in marine biology. During my final year as an undergraduate,
I worked in Belize (Central America) during the summer. I went on to work at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research on a coral
symbiosis research project which eventually led to my Masters degree thesis research. Since earning my Masters degree, I have taken
a variety of positions including teaching at a university and a community college as well as my current position at the Florida Museum
of Natural History as Education Coordinator."
- What personal qualities are important in this field?
"In the field of ichthyology (as well as other biological sciences), it is important to have scientific integrity, strong ethics,
and a good sense of reasoning. You must also be able to get along well with fellow biologists since you often work as part of a team
on various projects."
- Describe your work and research:
"Currently, my work consists of many different responsibilities. As Education Coordinator, I am working on education initiatives which include
Project Shark Awareness, a public outreach program that seeks to educate people about the myths and realities of sharks. I am also responsible
for the web site development and maintenance, which includes programming and digital photography. In the past,
I have worked on coral symbiosis research that focused on the
cellular mechanisms of communication between corals and their symbiotic algae."
- What skills do you use on the job?
"I use a variety of skills in my position at the Museum. My education in marine biology along with my teaching experience has prepared
me well for my current job. Computer skills are very important. As the web site designer, I need skills for web page creation which
includes knowing many software programs such as html editors and graphics programs. I also use my biological science knowledge for
creating new web page content and educational materials. Photography and writing are very important skills that I use everyday."
- What interesting discoveries have you made in your studies?
"During my research as a graduate student, I discovered that symbiotic algae found in corals take up amino acids provided
by the coral host and the role this may play in communication between these two organisms. Recently, I have discovered how much
people really want to learn about fish, especially sharks. This has lead to the development of our education initiatives on sharks, shark biology,
and shark conservation at the Florida Museum of Natural History."
- What is your typical work schedule?
"I work 40 hours a week in the office with occasional travel to conferences and workshops."
- What do you like best about your job?
"My job provides opportunity to develop educational materials for classrooms and the general public. These materials are
available through our web site for the general public to learn more about fish! Education is a great way
to increase public awareness about the wildlife, natural habitats, and conservation."
- Does this profession require any travel?
"My position as education coordinator requires some travel, primarily to conferences and workshops to meet other educators and to
share ideas and information about education initiatives."
- What is the general salary range for someone in your position?
"The general salary range for someone in my position ranges anywhere from $30,000 to about $50,000 per year depending
upon your employer, education, geographical location, and job responsibilities."
- How long have you been an ichthyologist?
"I have been working in the field of marine biology for about 10 years."
- Is it difficult to find a job in ichthyology?
"It can be difficult to find a job in this field due to the high amount of competition for the best positions. If someone
asked me for advice on entering this field, I would tell them to work hard to earn top grades and to get lots of experience
working on different research and education projects while in school. It also helps to have a graduate-level degree when searching
for a position in ichthyology."
- Have you ever considered a career in a different field?
"I have considered careers in different fields, however I decided to become a marine biologist. Originally I studied
photojournalism, but later changed my career goals. It would be fun to rent kayaks, take people out on
field trips and teach them about the habitats and wildlife of Florida."
- Do you ever go fishing in your free time?
"I occasionally go fishing in my free time. Gainesville is centrally located in the northern peninsula of Florida, giving easy
access to both the Atlantic and the Gulf coasts. When I do get a chance to do some fishing, it is mostly in saltwater and from my ocean kayak."