This week we chat to…Rachel Carlson, Director of Operations at MarineLab in the United States. Rachel gets to make a difference by introducing students to the wonders of our oceans and sharing its importance. Over the years Rachel has learned not to sweat the small stuff! Her advice is also to take every opportunity you can to make things happen.
Name: Rachel Carlson
Job Title: Director of Operations
Organisation: MarineLab/Marine Resources Development Foundation
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I grew up in a landlocked state, Wisconsin, with the nearest ocean more than a thousand miles away. The first memory I have of seeing the underwater world was in Key West, FL. I snorkelled up close to a sea turtle and immediately fell in love with this new world. I was seeing animals, plants and formations I never could have imagined! After that all I wanted was to learn as much as I could about marine life and how to protect it. Now, I am extremely lucky to be able to give the same experience I had to students.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
Starting out, I didn’t have concrete goals of where I wanted to go, except to be successful in my marine science career path. In order to do that I always made sure I was trying new things and learning as many new skills as possible. I have been lucky to have many excellent role models in my career to observe and grow from their example. I think my biggest accelerator in my career path has been my passion for my work. Education is very powerful and it is an important part of ocean conservation.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I started out as a seasonal employee then moved up through the ranks in the education department. MarineLab is a special place that cares about their employees being successful. I benefitted from constantly learning and growing from the many opportunities that presented themselves to me. My attitude was always positive and motivated to do what is best for MarineLab and it’s students.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
Everyday is different. Some days I get to be out in the field educating students about marine life and all the amazing habitats surrounding the Florida Keys. Other days I am handling scheduling, staffing, and other challenges that keep me on my toes. It is exciting to me that my job brings new challenges and rewards everyday. Ultimately, the most enjoyable part of my job is getting to play a part in impacting student’s educational experience in the ocean.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Absolutely! Every school group that visits us, which totals to around 5,000 students per year, leaves with lasting memories of experiences in the ocean. At MarineLab, education is our focus. Our goal is to make sure students learn, see, and understand the ocean. Many students who come visit us are seeing the ocean for the first time. With the expanding issues our ocean is facing, I know we are making a difference at MarineLab by educating our future generation about the immense importance of the ocean.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
To focus on the big picture. I am still learning this today. Often, I would get stuck letting small problems hold me back from really seeing how well my team or I was doing. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
I think for me it’s more that I never thought how advanced some skills would need to be in order to be successful. The position I am in now requires a lot of organization and communication. Personally, I think these skills will grow the most from experience. I have much to learn.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
Take every opportunity that arises and make things happen for yourself. If you wait around for something to magically appear it won’t happen. You have to do the work and put the time in to reach your goal.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
I think my answer to this question changes every time I’m asked. I think I have to say sea turtles since they were the first creature that truly made me appreciate the ocean.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
It is a collection of memories in my head of all the times I got to witness a student looking underwater at the coral reef for the first time. The mumblings of excitement through their snorkels and the wide eyed “I can’t believe this is real” look will always be my favorite.