Dr. Samir Patel is a researcher at Coonasett Farm Foundation out of Woods Hole, MA.
Lindsay: So, for starters, what is your favorite species of sea turtle?
Joe: I have 2 favorites: Leatherbacks because they are so big and loggerheads because I've seen many of them while scuba diving in the Caribbean and other tropical locations.
Lindsay: What does a day at work look like for you?
Joe: It really depends on whether I'm at sea doing fieldwork or in the office. If I'm on a boat it can be doing anything from driving a zodiac around icebergs trying to find whales to doing a net tow to catch deep sea creatures, but if I'm in the office then it's like many other jobs: lots of meetings with my grad students about their research progress, lots of paperwork to get funding for our science, preparing for classes I'm teaching, etc. The best part is that there's a lot of variety so no day is the same.
Lindsay: What is your favorite thing about your job?
Joe: Going to sea and being on the ocean, followed closely by teaching students something new about the ocean. Sometimes I can even do both at the same time!
Lindsay: Soooo, do you ever get seasick when you are out on the ocean?
Lindsay: I usually get sea sick actually. If sea sickness isn't a problem, what is your least favorite thing about your job?
Joe: Paperwork and budget spreadsheets. But that's the price you pay for running a research group.
Lindsay: When did you decide you wanted to be an oceanographer?
Joe: Growing up in Indiana, I’d always thought it would be a cool job to have, but I didn't really know what it entailed. Then in college I got a summer job doing ocean research and found that it was interesting and a lot of fun, and then just kept on doing that.
Lindsay: Wow, you’re from Indiana. That’s nowhere near the ocean. What did you study in college?
Joe: I was an engineering major in college (undergrad) which turned out to be really good background for the area of oceanography (bioacoustics -- using sound to study the ocean) that I ended up working in. There's a lot of math and physics (and mechanical/electrical repair!), but we're applying those skills to answer biological or ecological questions.
Lindsay: Where is the farthest you have traveled from home for your work?
Joe: Antarctica -- I've been there for twelve different field projects and have spent almost a full year of my life at sea in the Southern Ocean.
Photo Credits: Joe Warren
Lindsay: Whoa. That’s amazing! Wait, have you ever seen a leopard seal?
Joe: Oh yeah! Tons of times. Sometimes they would follow our zodiac.
Photo Credits: Joe Warren
Lindsay: They're so cute, but also scary looking. Okay, as a 4th grader, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Joe: I think my answer to this in the 4th grade was "movie stuntman", so things have turned out a bit differently…
Lindsay: Oh, I love that. What was your favorite book as a kid?
Joe: I really liked the "Encyclopedia Brown..." series of books.
Source: Penguin Random House
Lindsay: Nice! I remember those books. Did you have a special teacher or mentor that made a difference in your life?
Joe: I was lucky to have a great series of teachers throughout my elementary school time, but I distinctly remember Ms. Clark who was my 4th grade teacher and helped me with my science fair project which was probably one of the better research projects I've been involved in (figuring out what type of material (rocks, sand, dirt, and a couple of other things) worked best as an insulator).
Lindsay: What is one thing kids can do to make a difference for sea turtles and the ocean?
Joe: Pick up trash and litter at the beach (or really anywhere you find it). We find so many balloons out on the ocean while we're doing our fieldwork and we always try to pick them up if we can, but if we can stop them from even reaching the ocean that's even better!
Lindsay: Okay last question-- If you could have one sea turtle power, what would it be?
Joe: I’m envious of how long they can hold their breath and how agile they are as swimmers underwater.
Lindsay: Very good answer. I wonder how many kids would say the same thing.
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