Florida Museum of Natural History
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Careers in Ichthyology


Travis Ford - Former Lead Shark Fishery Observer / Lab Technician at the Florida Museum of Natural History

  • How did you become interested in ichthyology?

    "I became interested in ichthyology when I was a child growing up in South Florida, but I did not get started in the field until college. In the summer of 2001, I began to volunteer in the Ichthyology Department at the Florida Museum of Natural History. This rekindled my interest in fishes and the ocean."

  • What training and education do you have?

    "I have a B.A. in Environmental Science with minors in Natural Resource and Environmental Ethics, Agricultural Law, and a concentration in Food and Resource Economics. I am a certified Dive Master and a trained commercial shark fishery observer."

  • What personal qualities are important in this field?

    "In my line of work it is very important to be able to work well with others, even people you have never met before. Organization and the ability to multi-task are also valuable qualities since it is often hectic on fishing vessels. Having a flexible social calendar is beneficial. In addition, it is imperative to have a love for the environment and conservation, while maintaining the desire to perform your best and be successful."

  • Describe your work and research:

    "About 25% of my time is spent at sea collecting biological samples and data on commercial shark fishing vessels. This involves going out on commercial shark fishing vessels for days at a time. When the fishermen catch sharks, I identify the species, measure the animals, and take samples, i.e. reproductive organs, vertebrae, jaws, and liver samples. This data is then brought back to the lab, along with the samples, where it is catalogued for future studies."

  • What skills do you use on the job?

    "Knowing how to handle a knife is a skill that is beneficial at sea. Organizational skills are very useful on a boat as well. In the lab it helps to know the ins and outs of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Access, and how to search for information on the internet."

  • What interesting discoveries have you made in your studies?

    "I haven't made any astonishing scientific breakthroughs…yet."

  • What is your typical work schedule?

    "Monday through Friday 8:00am to 5:00pm. However, when I am out fishing work days can be longer, and they often include weekends."

  • What do you like best about your job?

    "I like splitting my time between the lab and the field. I am never cooped up the office for too long, but at the same time I am never stuck on a boat for very long. Also, the people that I work with are all very unique and fun to be around. There is always someone who is willing to answer a question or help you find the answer. This makes the work place exciting and educational."

  • Does this profession require any travel?

    "Yes, there is a lot of travel all around the southeast coast of the United States."

  • What is the general salary range for someone in your position?

    "Approximately $30,000."

  • How long have you been an ichthyologist?

    "I began to study ichthyology in 2001."

  • Is it difficult to find a job in ichthyology?

    "It is not difficult to find a job if you are willing to work in any area of ichthyology."

  • Have you ever considered a career in a different field?

    "I wanted to be a roadie for AC/DC, but they were not hiring."

  • Do you ever go fishing in your free time?

    "Yes. I like to fish for dolphin (mahi), grouper, and snapper."