Ph. D programs studying cephalopod behavior

Discussion in 'Education and Employment' started by ms_octopus_lady, Aug 25, 2009.

  1. ms_octopus_lady

    ms_octopus_lady Larval Mass Registered

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    Hello all.

    I'm new here, but I have been in love with all thing cephalopod (especially octopuses, and not until recently, cuttlefish) since I was a teenager. It is most definitely my dream to get a Ph. D studying their behavior, work at a university, and spend the rest of my life trying to genetically engineer octopuses to walk on land and then use them to take over the world.

    The problem? I can't seem to find anyone who studies cephalopod behavior in the United States. All my leads have been dead ends.

    So far, I have contacted the following professors, with no response from any of them:

    Jesse Purdy at Southwestern University in Texas
    Jean Boal at Millersville University in Pennsylvania
    John Cigliano at Cedar Crest College, also in Pennsylvania
    John Woods at the Aquarium of the Pacific in California

    Radio silence from all of them. I wasn't even asking them if I could be their Ph. D student because they all work at institutes or universities that don't offer anything above a Master's; all I asked was if they knew of schools where I can get a Ph. D studying cephalopd behavior.

    SO! Long story short, does anyone know of any graduate schools in the United States where I can study cephalopod behavior and get a Ph. D? I would like to stay in the US to be closer to my elderly parents and boyfriend, but I will grit my teeth and go abroad if I absolutely have to.

    Thanks, everyone!
     
  2. mucktopus

    mucktopus Haliphron Atlanticus Staff Member Moderator

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    Hopefully one day I'll get a job that will allow me to help fill this need! In the meantime a general course is to work with someone who does not specialize entirely in octopuses, but you do your project on them anyway. I got my PhD in Roy Caldwell's lab. Roy studies octopuses but in the past had focused more on stomatopods. In general though Roy is a well-respected animal behaviorist who has a phenomenal understanding of how animals interact, and how this relates to their behavioral ecology and evolution. I actually found this to be invaluable- all things specific to octopuses I could learn on my own, so it was ok if some of this was new to him (though I did get lucky- he knew a lot about where and how they could be found, and had already had two other students who had studied octopuses before me). You go to grad school to learn all the other things (behavioral studies, fieldwork, evolution, etc etc) you wouldn't otherwise learn on your own. Roy taught me these things, and broadened my perspective way beyond what I would have learned if I had been with a mentor who focused on octopuses. The trade-off was that my project wasn't as focused and directed as it could have been if I were to have joined an existing octopus research group. While your mentor may know things like collection localities and basic behaviors, with this approach you can't necessarily expect any hand-holding when it comes to octo-specific problems with your project. But then again that's a main point of getting a PhD- to learn to be a researcher on your own.

    At this point you may want to decide what angle you want to take- field behavior/community ecology? psychology? mating systems? and then find out who the prominent researchers in those fields are, focusing if you can on people who work with marine invertebrates (and may have seawater systems/tanks if you want to do labwork) or diving programs if you want to do fieldwork.

    good luck!
     
  3. esquid

    esquid Haliphron Atlanticus Supporter

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    You didn't say what point in your education you are at currently. Are you working on or finished with an undergrad degree and if so in what subject? Or are you just starting your college career?

    Also, how long ago did you contact these professors? If you contacted them during summer they may not have had time to get back to you if out on research or sabbatical.
     
  4. cuttlegirl

    cuttlegirl Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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  5. bathypol

    bathypol Wonderpus Registered

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    If you were willing to go abroad, you could try the University of British Columbia in Canada. I think there is a prof there working on the GPO, but I'm not entirely sure. It wouldn't be that far from you if you're still in California :smile: Also, give the profs you contacted a bit of time. They are usually swamped with grant proposals and teaching and then most are in the field in the summer (or on holidays). If you don't hear from any by October, write a friendly reminder to them. Also, if the research of one of the professors you contacted really interests you, you could always have that prof as a co-supervisor (if they'd be willing) with a different prof from a university with a PhD program. There are many ways to make this work, just have to really look into it. Good luck with it :smile:
     
  6. robyn

    robyn Vampyroteuthis Supporter

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    I got my PhD with Jennifer Basil at Brooklyn College/CUNY, studying learning and memory in nautilus. What kind of behaviour are you interested in?

    Also Jennifer Mather at the University of Lethbridge does work on octopus behaviour. I think that's in Canada...
     
  7. ms_octopus_lady

    ms_octopus_lady Larval Mass Registered

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    Roy Caldwell is one of my top choices, actually, so I'm glad to have found someone who's actually worked with him one on one. He sounds like a great mentor!

    Do I have to know at such a specific level what exactly what I want to do when studying cephalopod behavior? I'm not entirely sure of what I want to do, but I am interested in how octopuses communicate with each other, either when mating or dealing with competition or predators.

    I just graduted with a Bachelor's Degree of Science in Marine Biology. I couldn't get a job, so I'm volunteering at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco as a research volunteer and an animal husbandry volunteer.

    I contacted them all about halfway through August. But perhaps you're right, maybe I can try again in a few weeks?

    Thanks, everyone!
     
  8. haggs

    haggs Vampyroteuthis Supporter

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    I was just in contact with Jesse Purdy, he has been here for the last few months "studying fish behavour" yesterday he was getting ready to start lecturing again so he may be a bit busy if he hasn't answered you.
     
  9. esquid

    esquid Haliphron Atlanticus Supporter

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    I would give them some more time to get back to you. But, as mail and emails can get lost in the shuffle when there is a build up, like when one comes back from being away, I would try again if you don't hear anything within a couple weeks. You may also want to see if you can get friendly with the secretary or contact person for their department.
     
  10. ceph

    ceph Wonderpus Staff Member Moderator

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    Well crud. I'm not sure who that John Woods guy is. Probably a shady character anyway. You are better off not talking to him.

    I try to write back to everyone who writes me but apparently I had the wrong email address at the top of my web page. . . for quite some time. Tony pointed it out and that has been fixed. Apologies.

    I am at a major aquarium and not currently directly involved in research. I get my fix by living vicariously through my colleagues and dreaming up schemes to fill the aquarium with really cool ceph displays.

    I've thought about ditching my Ph.D., reincarnation, and having another go at it in Roy Caldwell's lab - his grad students always seem to do really cool stuff. And he has neat animals in his lab. I decided against this only because the diaper stage just doesn’t appeal.

    Shelly Adamo in Canada, Ron O'Dor (Hmm Canada or D.C.), Mike V in D.C., Erik H (California), Janet Voight, Gilly, Brad Seibel, David Scheel (Alaska) . . . Actually get the latest CIAC pdf with the abstracts and look for authors in the US or Canada (eh?). I knouw it's far away and they put u’s in everyuthing like the Canadians, but you might want tou counsider Au as well - lots of good work gouing on douwn there. Also keep in mind that are not that there are not many of us, maybe 400 including grad students. . . and that cephalopods are oftena bigger part of other cultures (diet, history, etc) than they are here in the Excited States.

    Good luck!
     
  11. cuttlegirl

    cuttlegirl Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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    There are days I wish I could just go and be a student again, doing ceph research, I had a lifetime's worth of work left on cuttlefish shell development - oh well, maybe I could switch careers again...
     

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