Cephalopod Advisors

Vitalsigns

Larval Mass
Registered
#1
I only have 3 more semesters until I finally obtain my degree. I'm currently seeking new masters degree opportunities in the areas of behavior and reproduction/breeding. I can find schools that are decent in the areas of marine biology but I haven't found many professors working in the same field that I want. Roger Hanlon is at the top of my list but I'm pretty sure he works for Brown University and I believe they only accept PhD candidates.
Are there other advisers with similar backgrounds in cephalopod behavior? I think I'm just over looking people by accident.
I'm also interested in internships and will be applying to those at Wood's Hole. I'm stuck in Missouri for university. Any advise or simply a helpful hand in the right direction would be amazing.
 

robyn

Vampyroteuthis
Supporter
#2
Hi Vitalsigns,
What is your career plan after college (what will you use your masters degree for, ideally)? If you are going to get a masters degree you should have a clear idea of what purpose it will serve. If you want to get into research or academia, only a PhD will do. But if you're looking more at husbandry or commercial rearing, for example, a masters in biology in a research lab might be of less use than one in fisheries science. So my immediate advice would be to look beyond obvious cephalopod labs and more broadly at places that will give you transferable skills rather than species-specific experience.
If you are interested in Woods Hole, apply for the NSF-funded program called Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) that is hosted by the MBL ( http://hermes.mbl.edu/education/courses/other_programs/reu.html ). This is generally how undergraduates find labs to work in when they do not have a direct connection established already. Be aware that volunteer internships are not encouraged anymore, so going through an established application program is your best bet. If you are also interested in WHOI (separate from the MBL) check their webpage.

I know Roger well and work with him every summer. He is indeed affiliated with Brown, but whether they take masters students I don't know. Because he's so well known he pretty much has a world-wide pick of students for his lab, so getting in is very hard. There are other labs around though that might also be a good fit for you, and I'm sure some of our members will chime in with suggestions for places for you to consider.
 

Vitalsigns

Larval Mass
Registered
#3
Thanks for the feedback Robyn. I'm not entirely sure what my intentions are but I know of a few things that have pulled my interest. I'm currently getting a degree in ecology and know for a fact that I want to work with marine systems. I enjoy breeding programs especially when it comes to reducing the strain on an ecosystem in the aquarium trade. I do have an interest in academia, however I'm not sure if I am ready to jump straight for the PhD yet. It is an eventual goal but I think I'm going to wait for a bit.
I have debated other programs that are designed for aquaculture and that is why I'm also looking at internships. I've even tried to design undergraduate research for marine studies. I had to basically give up on the idea since it's not very cost effective.
Over all, the big issue is that I'm in a school with no connection to the ocean and I'm a bit intimidated at trying to find a good fit for an adviser.
 

robyn

Vampyroteuthis
Supporter
#4
I know its easier to say than do, but just go ahead and contact whomever you're keen on - professors are used to getting cold emails from prospective students and generally are friendly and approachable.
Even though you're not near a marine lab, most professors will want to see that you've had at least a little research experience if you write to them looking for an internship or for a potential grad school advisor. If your university has research labs, see if one will take you for a semester. If you've already done this, that will help you even if the research topic seems irrelevant for what you want to do in future.
Who else is on your list? Someone here might know them, we've got quite good coverage of the ceph research community here!
 

Taollan

Vampyroteuthis
Supporter
#5
I would add that if you are interested in academia, indeed you do need a PhD, but starting with a master's is not a bad idea, especially if you don't have a lot of prior research experience. A masters degree can help bolster your CV and make you more competitive for PhD programs you may not have been competitive for before the masters, it can give you the opportunity to really pursue a research program for two years after which you can decide if you want to continue in that area of research of go a completely different direction.
In the mean time, however, let me reiterate what Robyn said: See what you can do to get some research experience at the university that you are at, even if it is in something that is somewhat far removed from what you want to eventually do. Also, start emailing potential advisors. Like Robyn said, most will be completely amenable to talking with, and this can give you an idea of what they are looking for in a student, and can give you a better idea where there research will likely be going over the next few years.
 

Jean

Colossal Squid
Supporter
#6
I'd definitely email round and be prepared to work on something other than cephs or indeed behaviour to start with (get your foot in the door!) my undergrad is behavioural psychology (rats and people)/behavioural zoology (NZ Fur Seal), my post grad diploma is in growth of bivalves, as is my masters THEN I did my PhD on population biology of squid!!!! So I took a really roundabout route to cephs! Can you look overseas? Both Aussie and NZ have good programs.
 

GPO87

Sepia elegans
Staff member
Moderator
#7
I agree with the previous comments. You definitely need to email around to different prof's to see what they are working on. And Jean is right, you may not begin on exactly the animals you want to work on. w
 

CephBirk

O. bimaculoides
Registered
#8
Vitalsigns,

All the above advice is very good. Getting involved in any sort of research will be a wonderful advantage for getting into grad school or internships!

If you're looking for potential advisors, I would recommend looking in the scientific literature for people that are doing research you're interested in. So go ahead and get on Google Scholar and search for whatever you like, cephalopod reproduction behavior for example.

To get you started, here is a list of teuthologists (cephalopod researchers) in North America that come to mind immediately for me at least that may possibly be looking for masters students (though you'd have to check with them, obviously):
Shelley Adamo
Ian Bartol
Roy Caldwell
Chuck Derby
William Gilly
Roger Hanlon (whom you're already aware of)
Sonke Johnsen
Jennifer Mather
Aran Mooney
Ron O'Dor
Kirt Onthank
Brad Seibel
Lloyd Trueblood

I'm sure there are many others that aren't in this brief list (if you're reading this and I missed you, I'd love to get to know you!), but take a look in the literature and see what people are up to.
 

DWhatley

Cthulhu
Staff member
Moderator
#9
It won't hurt to subscribe to this thread either. Members and staff will post openings found on other sites or blogs as well as occasional direct solicitations for projects.
 

Vitalsigns

Larval Mass
Registered
#10
Wow, you guys are awesome. My apologies if I don't reply quickly, finals are about to start. Thanks so much for all the feed back though. I'm still new to the idea of grad school so I've looked at universities but not many professors. There were a few at a school in California that seemed interesting and I've checked out the east coast a little. I also looked into a university in Belize, but I'm not sure how credible it is.
As for the suggestions on research, I'm currently waiting for approval for a project for stress on blue catfish. I've designed everything myself and according to my adviser, will be easy to publish once I get everything done. I'm also waiting to purchase frog eggs to see the effects of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides on egg development. A graduate friend helped design it since I don't know much about amphibians. I'm really excited about both of these projects.
So far when I email professors I never get a reply. I'm very formal and try to give specific questions about their research or program but never get a response. Are there some tricks to go about proper emails? I know its difficult to reach my professors a decent amount of time so I guess I'm not really surprised.
Country wise, I've looked into doing a semester abroad to Australia, New Zealand, or the Fuji islands. I'm fascinated with both the flora/fauna and the culture as well. Prices became too expensive and started to look unrealistic. I'm also not entirely sure how the graduate programs work in those countries. I would be awesome to study marine ecology in the indo-pacific.
 

robyn

Vampyroteuthis
Supporter
#11
Hi Vitasigns - this is just a quick reply about a couple of things you wrote above about contacting professors. First, make sure you are using your academic email address always - most profs have their spam filter set to super-high because of the number of unsolicited sales emails they get. So if you are emailing from gmail or similar, you may be getting spammed. Most university filters will permit .edu more freely than .com or .net

If they don't reply, my two suggestions would be 1. (the straight-up approach) - send them another email. But don't put 'second request' or 'follow-up' in the subject line unless you really want to - the art is to pester without seeming like you're pestering! Also, keep it short. Don't write a 1/2 page description of you. Make it easy for them to reply with a couple of sentences or a paper attached, or something.

2. (the sneak-attack) Go onto their webpage and find the names of their current students or postdocs, and email them asking about their (not their professor's) research. There are often short descriptions on the lab webpage of what each person does and a list of their recent pubs. Write to them and ask for a copy of one of their recent papers and add some questions about their work. Most lower-level researchers LOVE having someone tell them their work is exciting! If they write back in a friendly tone or say something like 'feel free to email me with more questions' - read the paper, write back with a question or two and then ask them about the lab. Mention you'd be interested in talking to the professor, and maybe they'll just forward your email along. Roundabout, but often successful when the prof is not replying!
 

gjbarord

Sepia elegans
Staff member
Moderator
#13
All great advice! I think I actually contacted Robyn to learn a little more about her former, and my current adviser, Dr. Jennifer Basil and her lab. She might also be added to that list as well.

I also remember sending many emails to different people, I still do, and sometimes never hear back for quite some time. Just keep in mind that everyone is busy, especially around this time of the year, so I wouldn't take the lack of replies as anything personal. This is actually making me think that I was supposed to reply to someone a couple weeks ago...

Also, as many were saying, be prepared to work on other animals as well. I've worked with a ton of different animals up to this point and I'm lucky enough to work on my focus animal now, but all of the other experiences definitely helped me out.

Keep on sending emails!

Greg
 

DWhatley

Cthulhu
Staff member
Moderator
#14
I'll throw in something for our academics to comment on. See if there is a course in grant writing and take it if available as well as participate in any grant writing opportunities you can find. Most of the work done by academics will be financed this way and the skill is often on job applications for not for profit companies and I expect experience in this area will add points to your CV for any of the mentioned avenues.
 

gjbarord

Sepia elegans
Staff member
Moderator
#15
I couldn't agree more D!!! I've had to learn about grant writing by trial and error until I was finally able to take a day long workshop on it. It definitely helps and definitely will look good on your CV! Semester long courses are even better. You might also look into scientific writing courses and also science communication...

Greg
 

DWhatley

Cthulhu
Staff member
Moderator
#16
Former Birch Aquarium Intern Turned Scientist and Professor

This came in an email today and follows on a lot of what our science staff has suggested. There is more of a preamble in the full post but I have included the section that stresses some of the recommendations.

In what year did you participate in Upward Bound?

I graduated from Baldwin Park High School in 1999, so my internship at Birch Aquarium must have been the summer of 1997! Wow, that was a while ago.

What did you do during your internship?

I was excited that Birch Aquarium at Scripps allowed me to help set up a display for that summer's Shark Week. I developed skills doing literature searches and setting up displays for the aquarium. I was also trained by several of the staff on how to feed a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate species. I made a lot of “Krill Shakes!”

What was your favorite part of the program?

My favorite part of the program was that the staff at Birch Aquarium trusted me to do my job independently. I gained a lot of self-esteem and it motivated me to learn more on my own. It was really nice to learn about the biodiversity in the marine realm and interact with the public.

How did your time at Birch Aquarium inspire you for a future career in science and/or education?

My internship prepared me for working at the interface between science and the public. I later had another internship at the Smithsonian Institution, which was comparable to Birch, and I am currently a faculty member at a university as well as being associated with a museum. Doing research, publishing, maintaining live animals in captivity, and reaching out to the public continue to be the mainstay of my own professional program.

What have you done since that summer?

I went on to get my Bachelors from UC Berkeley, my Masters from the University of Kansas and my Ph.D. from the University of Kansas Medical Center (with my research from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, MO). I am currently an Assistant Professor at La Sierra University, adjunct faculty at Loma Linda University Medical School, and Research Associate at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles in the Division of Herpetology. I explore reptile/amphibian biodiversity and the evolution of vertebrate body plans. I have a lot of fun in my career and continue to be excited about all organisms (including marine organisms, although I don’t work with them at the moment).
 

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