I was born/grew up in: I was born and grew up in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada – a small fishing community on the far eastern end of Cape Breton Island
I now live in: I currently live in Moncton, New Brunswick
I completed my training/education at: I completed my undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Science in Biology) at Cape Breton University in 2011 and immediately enrolled in the PhD program at the University of New Brunswick Saint John, where I graduated with my PhD in 2016.
What I do at work
My work is very seasonal! In the winter, I spend a lot of time at my desk, analyzing data and writing papers. In the spring, I usually start planning for experiments and fieldwork. This involves studying oysters, mussels, and clams in nature or in the laboratory.
A lot of my work deals with the behaviour of oysters and mussels. (Yes, even though they don’t have a head, these animals have complex behaviours!) For example, when predators are nearby, mussels and oysters close their shells to avoid being eaten. They need to adjust these closures very strategically to balance avoiding predators and eating food themselves. To study this behaviour we use these special “biosensors” that use computers to record the animals’ behaviour. Sometimes there are technical glitches that I have to deal with. At other times, the animals don’t quite act the way that you think they will, so it is a really dynamic and challenging process!
I also have to do lots of coding and data analysis. This can be fun and challenging at the same time. I work with a really smart and supportive team of people who make the work a lot of fun. Together we are usually able to solve the problems we run into.
My career path is
In high school, I wanted to be a medical doctor. However, when I got to university, my marine biology professor showed the class seashells that had these perfectly round holes in the shells. When I saw them, I immediately recognized the shells and holes – I used to collect them ALL THE TIME as a kid. I had always assumed someone that lived near the beach was making the holes and using shells for jewelry. The professor then went on to tell us that the holes were made by predatory snails. These snails drill holes in the shells of their prey and eat the tissues inside. I was FASCINTED. When I learned that, I immediately wanted to learn more. As a result, I signed up to do research on the snails with that professor. From there onward I knew that I was meant to have a career in research. Fast-forward 10 years and here I am. Check my LinkedIn profile for more information.
I am motivated by
I always tell people that the coolest thing about my career is when I finish collecting data and formally analyze it. At this time, I am the only person on the planet who knows that information. There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet but, for a brief moment in time, I am often the only one who knows a piece of information. That idea, for me, is profound and keeps me motivated in my job.
How I affect people’s lives
The most rewarding part of my career is working with local oyster and mussel fishers. My work helps them address issues that directly affect their livelihoods. As a Maritimer myself, I find it extremely rewarding to do cool science to help the local economy here. The local shell-fishers I work with are always very grateful and excited to be involved in the science.
Outside of work I
During the Summer I am an avid cyclist. In the Winter I play lots of hockey (I am a goalie). I really enjoy spending time outside in nature and hanging out with friends, my dog, Luna, and my wife, Jenna.
My advice to others
Science is for everyone. No matter your background, you can become a scientist; and you don’t even have to wait to become a scientist! There are probably many scientists that live in or near your town or city. Often these people would love to talk about their research with you! Tell your teachers what science topics you like. Ask them to help you contact researchers. You may be surprised at what you can do to kick-start a career in science, even at a young age.