Staff Spotlight

This issue, Rachel Germeroth from Fisheries Dependent Monitoring volunteered some of her time for us to get to know her. Thanks Rachel!

What are your degrees in?

  • A.A. in General Studies, Moberly Area Community College (2008)
  • B.S. in Environmental Science with a concentration in Marine and Coastal Resources, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi
  • I’m currently working on an M.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Florida, under Dr. Susan Lowerre-Barbieri and Dr. Will Patterson. (Expected matriculation: winter 2020)

What has your professional experience been like?

  • Marine science can be tough to break into, especially in the economy I graduated in; so before this, many of my jobs were short-term grant-funded research positions. I’ve mainly worked in laboratories since the age of 18, in various fields. I worked in an agricultural chemistry lab at the University of Missouri, private environmental testing labs, and marine science labs studying fish ecology and harmful algal blooms at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UT-MSI) and USF-St. Pete. I worked on a project at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi where we tested stormwater discharge outlets for fecal coliforms after summer rainstorms. I even worked at UT-MSI coordinating the Research Experience for Undergraduates program for a period.
  • I was an FWRI volunteer in different sections (Fish Collections, Fish Health and Harmful Algal Blooms) before I was offered a position. It gave me a chance to figure out which sections that I could see myself having a long-term interest in.

What are you working on now?

  • I keep the effort portion of the Gulf Reef Fish Survey (GRFS) running. This includes creating each survey template that is sent out, running computer codes to clean raw data and select which Gulf Reef Fish Anglers each month’s survey is sent to, and working with both the printer and USPS to make sure everything runs smoothly. Until recently, I was also tasked with entering each returned survey into the database: over 60,000 and counting! I am also beginning to be more involved with the SEDAR (Southeast Data, Assessment and Review) stock assessment project. I analyze data, write working papers and sometimes even serve on workgroups. I keep our webpages up to date, and I’ve also done some outreach work for both FDM and GRFS.

How is this information beneficial?

  • The Gulf Reef Fish Survey provides estimates of recreational fishing effort and catch for economically important Gulf reef fish species (certain groupers, snappers, etc.).

What is your typical work day like?

  • It’s pretty variable, but most days I run pre-written computer scripts, work in the databases, deal with administrative stuff, or write computer code to analyze data.

What is your greatest career accomplishment?

  • I’m really proud of how much I’ve learned in the last four years here. I came in knowing next to nothing about fisheries, database management or computer coding, but now I feel much more knowledgeable. I’m also proud of getting myself this far, from a blue-collar upbringing in a rural Missouri farmtown; I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. Throughout college, I knew I wanted to work in marine research in Florida. I first began volunteering at FWRI in 2012 and the first time I walked through the doors of the JU building (a bit in awe), I told myself “This is where you’re going to work”.

What are some of your biggest challenges?

  • Getting code to work correctly when analyzing data can be a daily challenge. I’m also learning more about effective science communication—I feel like that’s my biggest hang-up.

What do you like most about your career?

  • I love feeling like I’m making a difference in the world. As a parent, I also love how flexible our department is. It makes balancing work, life and parenting a little easier.

Was this your original career interest? Why or why not?

  • Yes! Even as a little girl in the landlocked Midwest, I told everyone who would listen that I wanted to be a marine scientist, scuba dive and “save the fishies”. Turns out it’s a little more complicated and math-heavy than I expected at age 6, but I still love it! Marine science has so many different and interesting things going on, I think I could be happy doing anything in it, as long as I feel like I’m doing some sort of good in the world.

What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in science?

  • I think I’d like being a travel agent. I love to plan our vacations; and planning other people’s vacations would be right up my alley. Wouldn’t mind the discounts on travel, either! The other option would be a librarian—I read a lot as a child and was a regular in my hometown library. Working in the peace and quiet of a library, combined with helping people pick out books to read, sounded like a dream job to me.

What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing a career in your field?

  • Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! Get your foot in the door, so people will know your name and face; get experience and that will help you figure out which part of marine science you’re interested in working in (whether it be fisheries, habitats, marine mammals, harmful algal blooms, whatever!).

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

  • My family and I love to travel! We’re heading to the Great Smoky Mountains during August for a week of hiking and relaxing. I also love kayaking and hiking in the Tampa Bay area, going to the beach, reading, and eating all the delicious food that Tampa Bay has to offer.