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Where are They Now?

Which Sea Grant researcher did you work with as a graduate student and what did you work on?

I was Dr. Anne Kapuscinski’s first graduate student at the University of Minnesota, from 1985 to 1988. For my master’s research in fisheries and wildlife, I conducted a cross-breeding experiment with several stocks of lake trout to analyze their genetic differences.

What do you do now?

I am a marine biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Biogeography Program in Silver Spring, Maryland. Our team takes advantage of computer technology to characterize the biota of the nation’s estuarine and coastal marine environments. In particular, I work on Estuarine Living Marine Resources, a database documenting the distribution, abundance, and life history of fishes and invertebrates in estuarine waters nationwide. I am also modeling habitat suitability for selected coastal species in cooperation with the State of Delaware. Through NOAA, I have consulted with hatchery and sport fishing programs and sampled mollusks for contaminants. When I am not at NOAA or out fishing on the Potomac, I play string bass and harmonica with two local bands, the Hula Monsters and the Grandsons.

David (Moe) Nelson

David (Moe) Nelson

How did your graduate work prepare you for your current job?

The most valuable things I learned in graduate school were the skills needed to approach a problem scientifically: research its background; acquire, manipulate, and analyze data; present results orally and in writing; and apply results to management and public policy. In other words, strategic thinking and carrying a project through to completion.

Did you receive any awards or fellowships as a graduate student?

I was a Sea Grant trainee during my graduate work. As I was finishing in 1988, I was awarded the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, the program that brought me to the Washington, D.C. area. (See Knauss Fellowship).

Why do you think Sea Grant is a worthwhile organization?

As both a NOAA employee and “beltway insider,” I think Sea Grant is invaluable. Sea Grant programs direct expert knowledge to fishermen, aquaculturalists, boaters, fisheries and coastal zone managers, and numerous others. Sea Grant is the only major program directly linking NOAA to the nation’s academic community. Much of the scientific work within NOAA involves national-scale monitoring, whereas Sea Grant supports regionally-relevant research. As a result, Sea Grant is a complementary component of NOAA’s overall scientific focus.

What’s your dream job?

This may seem like a funny answer, but let me offer this: I think being a graduate student is one of the greatest jobs in the world. I have come to this perspective after working for a federal agency for nearly ten years. Graduate study offers extensive learning in many fields, intensive study of a selected few, and focused research on a specific topic within an atmosphere of flexibility and intellectual vitality.

By Sea Grant Staff
February 2000

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