|Surfers know etiquette is important - Don't drop in!|
(Sorry if these come off as somewhat curmudgeonly - I feel like no one ever tells anyone these things and many people need to hear them. I've learned a few of these the hard way myself.)
Rule #1: Do not act like you have more experience than you do
Not only is this annoying, but it is also potentially dangerous. If an experienced biologist is looking for people to come out and work with them, and they ask how much experience that person has, here are their preferred answers (in order)
1) I have a lot of experience working in this situation (actually has a lot of experience working in this situation)A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking that if they don't have experience, they should fake it 'til they make it. When doing marine biology fieldwork, this is not only really annoying, but it can be potentially very dangerous. Most scientists who are adept at fieldwork are pretty good at spotting people who don't know what they're doing. If you say you know what you're doing and then someone catches you, say, putting the octopus on your dive tank upside-down, you're going to look much stupider than if you admitted that you need a little help in the first place. AND, in addition to looking dumb, you're going to lose credibility with the scientists you were trying to impress in the first place.
2) I have limited experience working in this situation, but I am willing to take direction and will learn.
3) I have a lot of experience working in this situation (actually doesn't). DO NOT DO THIS.
The number one reason for being truthful about your experience and abilities is that sometimes, your safety and those of others depends on that experience. For example, let's say Joseph is going out with some scientists on a small boat to look for dolphins. He says that he has LOTS of experience working on boats. When the boat comes back into the harbor, the captain asks Joe to help tie the boat up. To Joe, the boat looks like it is getting too close to the dock, so he tries to keep it away by pushing at the dock with his arm. His arm gets stuck between the boat and the dock, smashing his radius. Joe didn't know that you never NEVER try to stop a boat with your body. If he had admitted his inexperience, he could have gotten a lesson or someone else would have done it, and he wouldn't have a smashed arm.
Sidenote: bragging. As a new marine scientist, you will probably be feeling pretty insecure. You REALLY want this, and you want to prove yourself among your colleagues. One way some people deal with insecurity is by talking a lot about all the cool things they've done. Of course, talking about all the cool things you've done is really fun, especially if you have done a lot of cool things. But there is a big difference between conversation and bragging. Don't give in to the temptation to brag. If you want to talk about your cool things, make sure you ask about other people's experiences, too. Also, remember that when you are starting out, here will tons of people out there with tons more experience than you. For example, I have been on a couple of month-long research cruises, but I've probably spent in total less than 200 days on the water since I decided to be a marine biologist. I have a very good friend who worked as an observer for whale research cruises for many years, and he spent 150-200 days at sea EACH year. Imagine if I bragged to him about my measly 200 days?
Never underestimate the experience of your colleagues. Don't assume, ask. You'll probably hear some pretty good stories. Plus, and this may come as a surprise to many people, you make more friends by listening than by talking.
Rule #2: Understand priorities
Here are the priorities on a research trip:
1) Human SafetyIf you have a headache or are seasick, but you're not in real danger and research is going smoothly, do your best to medicate appropriately/change circumstances as best you can and then tough it out. Miriam Goldstein of Deep Sea News would never get any data if she couldn't power her way through seasickness. Sometimes you've got to live with a few bruises in order to see dolphins.
2) Research Objectives
3) Equipment Safety (sometimes this comes before research objectives, depending on how expensive the equipment is)
4) Comfort (when not associated with human safety)
|Now is not the time to take dolphin ID photos.|
Also, as a new marine biologist, guess whose needs are the lowest priority? That's right - YOU! (Unless it's something life or seriously health-threatening, obviously). People are there to do work, not take care of you. Make their work easier, not harder.
Rule #3: We are not here to have fun.
If you were paying attention to rule #2, you may have noticed where "enjoyment" falls on the list of priories. Last. When we go out to collect data, it is not a social event, and it is not a fun trip, it is a work trip. If you are lucky, it can also be fun. But if you are having fun and not getting all those other things done, you're doing it wrong.
|This will not be you.|
If equipment needs to be carried from the car, carry it. If sandwiches need to be made, ask if you can make them. If the boat needs to be rinsed, ask if you can help rinse it. If the cameras need to be cleaned, clean them. If you're standing around with nothing to do, ask if there is something you can help with. Sometimes the most helpful thing for you to do is stay out of the way. That's OK. Just let people know that you will stay out of the way, but as soon as there is something you can help with, you would like to know. People who don't take the initiative to help out with things are really annoying. If I see you sitting in a lounge chair while I carry all the 20 lb pelican cases to the car, I will not be happy.
Rule #5: Pay attention to safety (Respect the Ocean)
The ocean is a beautiful place that can drown you, smash you, and give you hypothermia. Respect the ocean. Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your safety protocols. Know your safety equipment. Being a marine biologist isn't like being a guest on a cruise ship. On a cruise ship, the crew is responsible for your life and safety. On a boat or in the water, you need to make sure that YOU are paying attention to your safety. The safety talk is IMPORTANT. Don't ever play Angry Birds during the safety talk.
|This guy with a metal detector was not paying |
attention to what the ocean was doing.
Rule #6: Respect the life IN the ocean
As a marine biologist, you need to show a healthy respect for life in the ocean. While scuba diving, don't kick the coral. When snorkeling, don't stand on the coral. Standing on coral is a personal pet peeve of mine. Hanauma Bay Marine Sanctuary, pictured below, is a beautiful bay with very nice reefs and thousands of visitors each week. Before people are allowed to go down to the bay, they are required to watch a 10 minute video about the bay which specifically tells them to not stand on the reefs, because reefs are made up of living organisms and standing on them kills them. Yet, every time I go to Hanauma, I see some fool standing on the reef. Every time. It drives me absolutely nuts.
When I was a student at a marine lab many years ago, a girl collected a bunch of shells at the beach, and brought them back to the dorms to decorate her desk. But when she came back, the shells were on the floor, rather than the desk. That's because the pretty shells had live hermit crabs living inside them, which were now dead and stinky on her floor.
As a new marine biologist, you have signed on to study the ocean, which right now is in some pretty dire straights. Educate yourself about the life in the ocean, and treat it with respect, or you will end up killing someone else's study species. Safety comes into this as well. Is that pretty shell a toxic cone snail? Don't know? Better give it some space.
Those are my rules. What are your rules for wannabe marine biologists? Any pet peeves or suggestions? Or juicy stories of broken rules?