Assistant Adjunct Professor of Ocean Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA
Doctor of Philosophy in Integrative Biology-1998 University of California, Berkeley; Advisor: Montgomery Slatkin Dissertation title: Population Genetics of the Northern Elephant Seal; Master of Science in Biology-1991 University of California, San Diego, Advisor: David Woodruff Thesis Title:A Phylogenetic Study of the Gibbons (Hylobates) using DNA Extracted from Hair; Bachelor of Arts in Biology-1990 University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Magna Cum Laude;
My research focuses on the genetics of natural populations of marine organisms. I use molecular genetic data to answer questions about the biology and evolution of natural populations. While much of my research is not species-specific, I am currently applying these population genetic methods and tools to Pacific salmon, Oncorhynchus, and pinnipeds in California. Among the many topics that I am interested in are the evolutionary process of repetitive DNA such as microsatellites and minisatellite markers. These markers are used for a variety of applications in population biology and I am interested in how the mutational processes affects their use in the study of natural populations. My approach has been to collect molecular data which allow the testing of alternative models of molecular evolution and mutation. The conclusions are then used to guide the use of standard population genetic measures in the study of important marine populations. This includes analysis of geneti! c popu lation structure, phylogeography and variance in reproductive success. In addition, I am working on the development of methods for the detection of demographic changes using molecular data. Two new areas of research into which I hope to move in the near future is the molecular genetic analysis of trophic interactions and the mapping of genes for ecologically and evolutionarily important traits in natural populations of salmon.
I am a scientist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. My specialization is in conservation biology with an emphasis in population genetics and molecular ecology. My research provides biological information on organisms that are protected under US law or that people fish (currently I am working on salmon and marine mammals). The information that results from my research is used to provide a scientific basis for protected species management plans and to establish and maintain sustainable fisheries. I have been lucky enough to know from a very early age what it was that I wanted to do as a career. Family legend has it that when I was 4 years old, my grandma asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I declared ďA research scientist!Ē Although I looked at other career options, I kept coming back to biological science. When I finally entered college, I immediately declared a major and never wavered or even considered changing. This is not to say that I didnít have other interests; I actually completed minors in Spanish Literature and Political Science and I continue to study languages and literature. However my career choice was clear and my choice of a specialization in conservation biology was triggered by my great dismay at watching development cover the hills and canyons of southern California where I played and explored as a child. My dream of becoming a scientist was almost derailed by poor high school career counseling. I was directed into a vocational program and trained as a welder and then an auto mechanic. I eventually dropped out. However, I worked hard and finally succeeded in transferring to the University of California, San Diego from a local community college. I then went on to get a doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. My choice of schools was a little haphazard. I had been out of school for a few years when I renewed my drive to become a biological scientist. I enrolled in the local community college, San Diego City, as it was the only option open to a high school drop-out. It was at City that I learned about the University of California. After my first year at City College, I finished my high school diploma at the local adult education center and set my sights on UC San Diego. My choice of the San Diego campus was based on my desire to stay near my family and the reputation of UCSD in the biological sciences. The next year, I was able to transfer to UCSD with the help of an affirmative action admissions program, and 4 years later I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelorís degree. During my last two years as an undergraduate, I became interested in and involved in research. After graduation, I stayed on at the UCSD Biology department for an additional year and completed a Masterís degree. While I donít normally recommend Masterís degree programs for those who are certain that they want to pursue a doctoral degree, I chose to do so because I wanted to ensure that I would gain admission to the doctoral program of my choice. And I did. I chose UC Berkeley for two reasons. The first is that it is arguably the best public university in the world, and has many graduate programs that are at the very top of the their respective fields. The second is that I wanted to live in Northern California, where I had friends and was familiar with the surrounding countryside.
If I am asked to give advice to students trying to make decisions about education and career choices, I offer two suggestions. First, try to figure out what is most important to you and do not discount these things when making choices. In my experience, too many people forget about the importance of family, friends, geographic location of workplace, quality of life and focus only on prestige and salary. Second, once you make a choice, stick with it. You can always change your mind later, but it is much easier to switch fields or careers if you have followed through with a commitment and proven successful, than if you have not.