I have spent the past week living in the world-famous Bimini Shark Lab (Bimini Biological Field Station) brushing my teeth with saltwater and learning about marine biology. It has been the highlight of my undergraduate career and has most definitely altered the path of my future career.
Three years ago I reached out to a professor at the University of Minnesota about his marine biology class, “Tropical Shark Ecology and Marine Biology.” He said I was welcome to join if I could work the details out between the two schools. After some patience and petitions, I was able to attend the class this summer and have it count as my natural science general education requirement.
Every day this past week, I woke up at 7:30 in a bunk bed to the smell of an amazing breakfast prepared by the lab’s staff members. The Sharklab only gets food shipments once a month, and so every meal came with directions– for example, “take two pancakes and as much cereal as you’d like.” After eating, we’d pile into the small lab room for a lecture from one of our two professors– Dr. Peter Sorensen or Dr. Dean Grubbs. Lecture topics included but were not limited to the entire taxonomy of the ocean. Then, we’d get to go on a field excursion, which would always exceed expectations.
Our field excursions included hand-feeding baby lemon sharks in secret mangrove hideaways, snorkeling military shipwrecks, swimming with wild dolphins, etc. While we were out, we would collect specimens to take home and identify. The class ended with an exam on the taxonomy of the creatures we collected, which included an octopus briareus named Herbert, which was hands down the cutest cephalopod I have ever seen.
At first, I was nervous about being one of the only not-stem majors on the trip. However, I quickly realized that my business background added a unique perspective to the group. I was interested in the economics of conservation– particularly how to create marine protected areas without screwing over the people who rely on them for their livelihood. I learned all about different career niches that would be perfect for me, such as fishing catch reconstruction and fishery economics. I am currently applying to law school programs where I can focus on these particular areas.
I am so grateful to the University of Minnesota for this experience, and to Pitt for letting me count it for credit. If I had advice to bring back to Pitt Business students, it would be to branch out beyond just business. PNC and Deloitte will always be there waiting to hire students, but there is more to business than just the corporate desk life. I would tell people to think about what they love the most– be it food critiquing, films, space, etc.– and figure out where that passion meets business, (which it inevitably will in capitalist America). Take a risk and immerse yourself in something beyond the scope of current Pitt Business, and life will get more exciting.
Likewise, I would encourage Pitt Business to seek corporate partners beyond finance and accounting firms. I hope to one day see Pitt Business with out-of-the-box partners like NASA, NOAA, and even our local Pittsburgh Government. When this happens, I think that Pitt Business graduates will bring a lot more positive change into the world. Additionally, I think more of our alumni will find genuinely fulfilling careers.