Mission & Objectives
Scientists & Crew
Interviews: Marine Biologist Kate Buckman
Kate and Josh Curtice stand watch monitoring the MR1 sonar computer.
Tell me about the work you've been doing in Belize.
I've been going to Belize for the past three
summers as part of a program we hope to continue through Smith College.
The first summer we surveyed the health of a coral reef. I was in
charge of looking at fish populations.
The second summer, I was with one other student, and we initiated
a summer education program in conjunction with the Hol Chan Marine
Reserve. The two of us taught children in the town of San Pedro about
coral reef ecology and conservation.
The third summer, I went back with four other Smith undergraduates
and we advertised our program on the radio and went to schools and
demonstrated some of the conservation lessons and games. That time,
we had more than 20 students between 5 and 13 years old who came consistently.
Each day we would start by collecting shells, pieces of dead coral
and anything else we found on the beach. Then, we would put these
items on each desk next to a piece of paper and some colored pencils.
The students would look closely at what we had found as they were
drawing it and start to feel comfortable asking questions.
works the 8 to 12 watch. Here she is chipping the glass from
lava recovered in the rock dredge.
What were some of the games you played?
Turtle hurdles, was a favorite. Its about
the life cycle of sea turtles. But mostly its a huge game of
tag. You start out with turtles, land predators and sea predators.
Each turtle has about 100 hatchlings (beans in a plastic bag). The
game begins with the baby turtles at the far end of the beach and
they have to run across the beach avoiding the land predators. Then
once they cross the boundary of the beach they have to continue past
the sea predators until they get to the teacher standing farthest
out at sea who is holding a life card. This represents
the turtles first birthday.
Now the turtle has to travel back toward the beach where another teacher
holds another birthday card not far from shore. The turtles
have to make it to their 10th birthday, going back and forth between
the teachers, before they can go back to the land and lay their eggs.
But again they have to watch out for the land predators.
Every time a predator tags them they have to give up 10 hatchlings.
If they run out of hatchlings before they make it back to land and
lay their eggs they turn into a condo. That represents beachfront
development. Luckily, that doesnt happen often. The game demonstrates
how difficult it is for turtles to survive.
Where else have you traveled?
I went to high school at a public school in
New Hampshire. My Spanish class raised money for a trip to Spain.
And when I was in the Latin Club we went to Greece and Italy. The
key is, if youre interested in doing something dont be
afraid to get out and try it. The most challenging thing is finding
the courage to try new experiences. The more you do it the more rewarding
it is. Ive learned there is always a way to figure out how to
do something you really enjoy doing.
In college I traveled to Australia for a semester studying marine
biology at James Cook University in Queensland. While I was there
I also took courses in silver-smithing and Australian history. We
had some fabulous field trips not related to marine biology: counting
bats, rodents and birds.
I also spent a semester with the Sea Education Association (SEA).
We spent six weeks at their campus at Woods Hole studying oceanography,
nautical science and maritime studies, which combined literature and
history of the sea. We developed research projects and during the
next six weeks performed the experiments and studies while sailing
on the SSV Corwith Cramer, one of SEA's tall ships. We sailed
from Maine to Bermuda, Barbados, Guadeloupe and St. Croix. I became
involved with our expedition to the Galápagos on Revelle
as a result of my association with SEA.
Rob Otto and Rhian Waller, Kate helps collect biological samples
recovered in the rock dredge.
How did you know you wanted to be a marine biologist?
Kate: My first experience with the ocean was
when I was swimming off the coast of Connecticut. I was terrified
of the jellyfish. I made my mom and grandmother carry me out of the
ocean. Now you cant get me out of it. I grew up swimming in
lakes with my older brother, Andy. I enjoyed looking at small creatures
living in the lake. I think a turning point for me was reading Shark
Lady by Eugenie Clark. Her work on sharks really inspired me.
Ive wanted to be a marine biologist since sixth grade.
When I first went to college, I started working in developmental biology
studying cell movement using fish embryos. That led into my study
of fish populations. I really enjoy looking at fish populations so
I kept doing it. Ive been working with fish my entire undergraduate
career. I became a certified SCUBA diver in 1997. I did my open water
dive off the coast of Cape Cod. I love learning about the ocean. There
are so many things to discover - Ill never get bored with it.
What else do you do?
In college, I played the French horn in an orchestra
and I was captain of the Smith ice hockey team. I also love to read.
I have so many favorite books its hard to pick which one I like
the most. Probably at the top of the list Id put the Chronicles
of Narnia, Cod, a book about the history of the
codfish industry in America, and Shel Silversteins poetry.
On our recent trip to Santa Cruz,
Kate meets one of the giant Galápagos tortoises that
live at the Darwin Research Center.
Do you eat seafood?
Its not that Im morally opposed
to eating seafood. I just dont like the taste of fish. Every
time I try it I dont like it, so Ive stopped eating it.
But there are fish I wont even try because I know they are being
over-fished. Swordfish is one.