SeaBASS and career paths

A couple of weeks ago I participated in SeaBASS 2012, the BioAcoustics Summer School, a week-long course on marine bioacoustics that was offered for the second time at Penn State University. The course was sponsored by the Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State, the Office of Naval Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Acoustical Society of America.

SeaBASS was a great opportunity to learn about the latest discoveries on marine bioacoustics and the questions many groups are trying to answer. In addition, we got to meet several researchers and graduate students from all over the world. I even had the chance to meet another Puerto Rican researcher that was going to her field site in Panama right after the course to work with bottlenose dolphins.

The course featured both lectures on theory and practical aspects, like problems dealing with the marine environment, calibration, and some cool hardware several research groups are using. There were also hands-on training on several software packages, like MMPE, Raven and Ishmael. It covered themes from basic acoustics in water to how marine mammals listen. Of course, there are many unknowns in all areas, it is our job to answer the questions that still remain. If you are interested, or are currently working, in the area, consider applying for the next time the course is offered.

One of the nights, the course featured a career paths panel, something that I hope most short courses start doing. In particular in this job market, where jobs in science are not what they used to be, it was quite inspiring to get a glimpse of how established researchers have dealt with their own careers. The one common theme across all presenters was that they did not end up where they originally planned. Some opportunities appeared to them, some others were chosen to solve conflicts with their family or significant other. In the end, we all learned that we must have our eyes open for when opportunities arise, even if they are not what we had planned.

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