Alum Greg DeCelles talks about SMAST's collaborative environment and the added value of working with faculty, peers, and local fishermen
How did you become interested in marine science?
I grew up on the coast, and was always fascinated by the ocean. I took a high school marine biology class where I was able to do some hands on field work at the Northeastern Marine Lab in Nahant, MA. This experience encouraged me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of New Hampshire.
What type of research did you conduct as a student?
My dissertation was focused on the life history of winter flounder in the Gulf of Maine. I used a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the movement patterns, spawning locations, and larval dispersal of this species.
As a research technician and postdoc at SMAST, my research was primarily focused on industry-based surveys for groundfish and black sea bass. I also worked with my colleagues at SMAST and the scallop industry to develop a real-time bycatch avoidance system.
Explain how studying at SMAST helped launch your career.
My experience at SMAST made me well prepared for a career in marine science. While at SMAST I learned a number of valuable skills, including the fundamental principles of field work, study design, and data analysis. SMAST also provided me with the opportunity to collaborate extensively with members of the local fishing industry, which was a worthwhile experience and allowed me to gain valuable insight into their perspectives.
Talk about collaborating with faculty and your peers as a student.
I had a great working relationship with the SMAST faculty, and I collaborate with some of the faculty in my present job. Each faculty member has a unique skill set and perspective, and their insights into marine science and fisheries management were invaluable. In particular, my graduate advisor Steve Cadrin was an excellent mentor, and I owe a lot of my success to his guidance.
My most memorable experiences were working together with my colleagues and with the fishing industry to conduct cooperative research in the field. Although the field work was often difficult, these research trips allowed me to build strong relationships with my coworkers and the fishermen. My time on the water also allowed me to witness some spectacular sights and experience the natural beauty of the ocean.
How has your research affected your educational experience?
The research I conducted at SMAST trained me to think critically, be well prepared, and to consider a range of perspectives. I tried to apply these lessons to my educational experience as well.
Discuss your career.
I am currently working at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries as a stock assessment specialist in the New Bedford office. My research is primarily focused on groundfish stock assessments. I am also a member of the groundfish and monkfish Plan Development Teams, which perform research to help inform the New England Fisheries Management Council.
What makes SMAST special?
SMAST has a focus on applied research, which I think is somewhat unique amongst the regional universities. In addition, there is a strong commitment to working closely with members of the local fishing industry through cooperative research projects.
What advice do you have for prospective students interested in pursuing careers as marine scientists?
Most of the jobs in fisheries science require applicants to have strong a background in statistics and quantitative modeling skills. Students can acquire these skills and prepare themselves for a career in fisheries science by taking appropriate courses while at SMAST.
I would also encourage students to participate in as much field work as possible, which will provide them with valuable perspectives and skills for their careers.