Careers in Ichthyology
Andrew Piercy - Former Research Biologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History
- How did you become interested in ichthyology?
"I can not pinpoint any one event or time that triggered my interest in sharks, but it probably started when I was an elementary
student. I also had an excellent high school biology teacher who helped foster my interest in science."
- What training and education do you have?
"I have a Master's Degree in Biology from University of Central Florida and a Bachelor's of Science in Biology from Christopher
Newport University. I am currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida, Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences."
- What personal qualities are important in this field?
"Self motivation, ability to focus on tasks, good written and oral communication skills, physically fit (for field work),
and an ability to learn and adapt, are all important qualities in this field."
- Describe your work and research:
"My research interests are focused on primarily two interrelated areas of shark biology; reproduction and age and growth.
I am involved with several age and growth projects on sharks, such as the scalloped hammerhead. The goal of these projects
is to determine how fast scalloped hammerheads and other sharks grow with particular interest on determining the age of maturity.
I am also involved with reproductive studies on stingrays and sharks, such as the sandbar shark. These studies are trying to
answer questions about their reproduction. For instance, how often do they reproduce, when does mating occur, how many young
are born, etc… These data are important for determining how shark populations will respond to fishing pressure."
- What skills do you use on the job?
"I use communication (oral and written), teaching, dissection, microscopy, and organization skills on a daily basis.
I also utilize research training in histology and ageing."
- What interesting discoveries have you made in your studies?
"Yes, but I can't tell you until its published."
- What is your typical work schedule?
"7 am to 5pm Mondays through Friday with occasional longer days and weekend work in the field. Field trips are typically
3-4 days on a commercial shark-fishing vessel off the coast of Florida."
- What do you like best about your job?
"This job allows me to interact with and teach students and volunteers, and learn new things through scientific research."
- Does this profession require any travel?
"Sometimes. You may need to do field work to collect samples which can require travel and many scientists attend national
meetings and conferences to present their work to their peers."
- What is the general salary range for someone in your position?
"Depends on level of education and skills. I would say the salary range would be $20,000 to $30,000 for my current position."
- How long have you been an ichthyologist?
"I have been involved with research on sharks, skates, and rays since my senior year in high school (1994)."
- Is it difficult to find a job in ichthyology?
"Depends on who you know. The best advice I can give is to network. Meet and interact with scientists in similar fields of
interest. You often will hear about potential jobs through friends and colleagues."
- Have you ever considered a career in a different field?
"Yes, I briefly considered a career in the FBI. I think I was watching too much X-Files at the time."
- Do you ever go fishing in your free time?
"Sometimes. I used to fish more when I was growing up, but I would say I probably fish a handful of times a year
outside of work."