Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"What a fish!" "Mammal." "Whatever."

The other day we were filling the boat up with gas before heading out for work on the water.  While gassing up, a lady walked up to me and said, "I wish I had your job!  You know, I almost went into marine biology."  That comment got me to thinking how many times I have heard this EXACT comment.  Apparently about 80% of America's population almost went into marine biology.

The statement is always given with such a sense of envy too.  "Oh, your job must be so fun!"  "I love dolphins!"  Then they proceed to tell me that they went into some sensible career.  The lady at the gas station went into law.  While she envied my time on the water, I must admit I envied her paycheck.  Believe me, you don't go into this job for the money.

I do believe a large portion of the population has a rather skewed view of what a marine biologist actually does.  Most people picture dolphins, ocean sunsets, coral reefs, and luxurious research vessels filled with red wine and Frenchmen.  In reality, marine biology is not glamorous.  In my career, I have pulled nets through thigh-deep mud, been mauled by biting insects on a regular basis, come home with anchovies stuck to my person, been poked and stung and bitten by all manner of creatures, had to pee up in the mangroves with giant spiders hanging above my head, sampled in all-day torrential downpours, and clog up my shower drain with drift algae and dead seagrass.  As of right now, my hands have some slices from fish gill plates, I've got the end of a fish spine stuck in my finger, and I've got several good bruises.  I wrestle with cantankerous computer programs and equipment failures.  I have strange tan lines and my work clothes will forever and always smell like estuarine mud.

The crazy thing is, I actually enjoy this stuff.  You need to be a little crazy to do this.  During my college orientation, all of the marine biology hopefuls gathered in an auditorium.  They did a rather good job of "telling it like it is".  The gist of the speech was this:  1) You're not going to be playing with dolphins. 2)You're not going to make any money. 3) No really, you're not going to be playing with dolphins. 4) No, you don't have a special connection with dolphins. 5) You will spend lots of time in the mud.  And...quite literally, half the people got up and left.  I was one of the poor suckers who stayed.  So - I don't play with dolphins, I don't make a whole lot of money, I know dolphins aren't quite as cute and cuddly as people think, and I spend lots of time in the mud.  Yup.  And I'm good with that.  Well, except maybe the money thing.

If you've ever seen "The Marine Biologist" episode of Seinfeld, then you are familiar with the title I gave this blog.  Now to leave you with one more marine biology gem from George Costanza:

So I started to walk into the water. I won't lie to you boys, I was terrified! But I pressed on and as I made my way past the
breakers, a strange calm came over me. I don't know if it was divine
intervention or the kinship of all living things, but I tell you Jerry -
at that moment I was a marine biologist!
 Here's me, giving a big "thumbs up" to marine biology:

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