Careers in Ichthyology
Dr. Franklin F. Snelson, Jr. - Professor and Project Manager
- How did you become interested in ichthyology?
"As a child and teenager, I was involved in fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities. My first interest in
college was in wildlife biology, but a part-time job at the state museum in North Carolina sparked my interest in fish.
I was asked to participate in a stream survey and identify and catalog all of the fishes we caught. After that, I was hooked."
- What training and education do you have?
"I have a BS degree in Zoology from NC State University and a PhD from Cornell, with a specialization in ichthyology and
- What personal qualities are important in this field?
"A love of water and fish, fascination with nature, natural curiosity and inquisitiveness, self motivation, a good work ethic,
and a good sense of humor."
- Describe your work and research:
"I am a university professor and research scientist. I teach undergraduate and graduate-level classes in ichthyology,
anatomy, and evolution. I advise and direct the research of graduate students. I participate in the research of my students
and conduct my own research dealing with fish ecology and evolution. My main interest at present has to do with studying
sharks and rays. I spend time in the field studying behavior and reproduction, and I spend time in the lab analyzing samples
and data. A significant amount of time is spent writing scientific papers, reports, and grant proposals to fund research
- What skills do you use on the job?
"The most important skills I use are statistics for data analysis, computer skills for recording, analyzing, and presenting
data, and written and verbal skills for effective communication. I can't over-emphasize the importance of good speaking and
writing skills to a career in science."
- What interesting discoveries have you made in your studies?
"I have discovered and named new species of fish and my students and I have discovered and described
new ways that stingrays reproduce."
- What is your typical work schedule?
"I do not have a set schedule. While teaching, my class schedule dictates when I am on campus. I teach some classes during
the day, others in the evening."
"Research studies in the field often require that I be out on the water for a week or more at a time, often working both day
and night and on weekends. When I'm working in the laboratory, I usually work a typical 8-5, M-F schedule, but I often work
at home when I need to concentrate on reading or writing.
- What do you like best about your job?
"The pleasure of being around and working with intelligent, motivated people who are interested in the same topics as
I am. I like the adventure and excitement of doing new things in the field, for example capturing sharks and going down
in research submarines. I also enjoy going new and exotic places to study fish. I also enjoy the flexible hours and the
fact that in many respects, I am my own boss. It is also very rewarding to work with and mentor dedicated students."
- Does this profession require any travel?
"Travel is required, but the amount and duration of travel is very variable. Some travel is related to field research and
sampling, some is related to going to meetings and conferences to present the results of studies and learn what others in the
field are doing."
- What is the general salary range for someone in your position?
"$50,000 to $70,000/year"
- How long have you been an ichthyologist?
- Is it difficult to find a job in ichthyology?
"It is not easy. You have to have strong credentials and be clearly better qualified than others to land a good
job in the field."
- Have you ever considered a career in a different field?
"I considered being a rock & roll star, but I can't play guitar or sing that well. Other than that,
I can't imagine doing anything I would like more."
- Do you ever go fishing in your free time?
"I love to go fishing but I don't seem to have much free time any more. However, I expect to do some serious fishing
when I retire. By the way, being a good ichthyologist does not necessarily make you a good angler!"
My motto to live by: "Try to learn something new every day."