Career Opportunities in the Marine Sciences Symposium (COMS)

Stepping off the plane into the icy winter air at Logan Airport was a stark reminder that I wasn’t in San Diego anymore. I was home from college for the 2015 Boston Sea Rovers Annual Underwater Clinic! I had recently been selected as the recipient of the Boston Sea Rovers’ Frank Scalli Annual Summer Internship and I was still in a state of disbelief. I knew that this was an immense blessing and opportunity to grow and learn in ways that I could only imagine. I wanted to make the most of this weekend and I was eager to meet all of the Sea Rovers!

The first event that I attended as the intern was at the Double Tree Hotel in Danvers for the Career Opportunities in the Marine Sciences Symposium (COMS for short)! COMS is a program that the Sea Rovers sponsor every year with the intention of introducing high school students to the expansive potential that pursuing a career in the Marine Sciences has to offer. I had attended the conference when I was a sophomore in high school and recall being in awe with the speakers and their fascinating careers. I never could have imagined that someday I would be standing on that stage alongside such intriguing speakers.

When I first walked into the conference hall I met George Buckley, Mike Zappala and Vin Malkoski, all dedicated Sea Rovers who served as phenomenal mentors and role models to me! I also met Margaret, Amy and Kim Malkoski who were so gracious and helpful throughout the entire weekend! I was introduced to the other COMS presenters including Greg Skomal, Sarah Taylor, George Buckley, Amy Giannotti, Paul Cater Deaton and Nick Caloyianis. Once the students arrived we began the presentation by asking the students how many of them had considered a career in the marine sciences. The number of hands that went up was very encouraging and we hoped that this presentation might provide them with some guidance.

The first presenter was Dr. Greg Skomal, from the Mass. Division of Fisheries, whom I grew up watching on Shark Week and the Discovery Channel. He spoke about the advanced technology that is used to tag Great White Sharks and about his work with them off the coast of Cape Cod. Greg easily connected with the students through his excellent sense of humor and sincere love for his work. He encouraged all of the students to do what they love and follow their passions.

Amy Giannotti, from the Cambrian Foundation, gave her presentation on jobs associated with fighting invasive species in Florida. She talked about the various species that are problematic in Florida such as the Burmese Python, Giant African Snail, Lionfish, etc. and what is being done to control them.

I was thrilled the see Sarah Taylor, the senior aquarist at the New England Aquarium, give her presentation as well. Sarah certified me as a diver in 2012 through the NEAQ Sea TURTLE program and I first met her at COMS when I was in high school. She spoke about her job as an aquarist at the aquarium and all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into supporting the diversity of marine life at the aquarium. She also spoke about her collection trips and the marine mammal and sea turtle rehabilitation work that NEAQ does.

Paul Cater Deaton gave his presentation on underwater cinematography and played a clip from his latest black & white piece, “Showdown at Tiger Reef”. He also gave a pertinent speech about his life growing up in rural Texas and how he got to where he is today. Nick Caloyianis spoke about his underwater photography for National Geographic and the influence that the late Dr. Eugine DeClark had on his life. He gave a presentation specifically on photographing Greenland Sharks under the ice in the arctic with Clarita Berger!

The event was a great success and at the end Vin Malkoski introduced me as the new intern and he recognized Natanya Levine as the 2014 intern. Afterwards we all went to have lunch and relax before the busy weekend ahead! At lunch I spoke with George and Sarah about the work currently going on at the Aquarium and I also had the great opportunity to speak with Val Gould, Elizabeth Hackley and Amy’s daughter Allie! After a filling lunch we parted ways to prepare for the Speakers Reception that night!