Skip to main content

Interview with Marine Biologist/Veterinarian Claire Simeone of Marine Mammal Center

Claire Simeone DVM at work
by Kavi Dolasia, Tamalpais High School

Claire Simeone, DVM is a Conservation Medicine Veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, as well as National Marine Fisheries Service in Washington, DC. In addition to taking care of sick marine mammals that come for treatment at the rehabilitation center, she also travels nationally to respond to Unusual Mortality Events, develops international training programs, and works on the Marine Mammal Health Map, which provides a centralized reporting system for marine mammal health data.

To learn more about her profession, we interviewed her.

1. How did you first get involved in marine biology and the field of veterinary?
I knew I loved both animals and science from an early age. Biology was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and I decided to study neurobiology in college. I started as a volunteer at a veterinary clinic in high school, and continued to work as a veterinary technician through college and veterinary school.

My Dad was an environmentalist, and gave me a deep respect for wildlife and the ocean. I began to be exposed to many different careers that veterinarians could have, and realized that I could combine my love of science and wildlife conservation in a job. My career has been a dream come true.

2. How was your experience training with SeaWorld San Diego?

Much of what I was taught about marine mammal medicine came from my mentors at SeaWorld San Diego and the Navy Marine Mammal Program.SeaWorld has been in the media spotlight recently, and there are a variety of opinions about marine mammals in captive care. In my experience, the animals receive the highest quality medical care, and each person that works with them is incredibly invested in caring for these animals in the best way possible. Medicine is continually advancing, and one of the best parts of my job is that I get to be a part of the pioneering science that improves the health of marine mammals everywhere.

3. What is your favorite "project" you have worked on within the Marine Mammal Center?

One of the most exciting projects has been to be a part of Ke Kai Ola, our hospital for endangered Hawaiian monk seals. We work with partners like the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Coast Guard to rescue young animals that would otherwise not survive on their own, and rehabilitate them in our hospital. We use the knowledge we’ve gathered over 40 years of caring for other seals like elephant seals and harbor seals, and apply it to working with this rare species. Since our hospital opened in 2014, we have rehabilitated more than 1% of the entire population. The best news is that during their last estimate, it looks like the population is starting to increase! This is an amazing way for me to be a part of a project that is literally saving a species.

4. What are the best parts of your job? What are the worst?

There are so many amazing parts of this job! First, every day is different. I never know if I’ll be performing surgery in the hospital, or presenting at a scientific conference, or examining a healthy seal in the wilds of Alaska.

Second, I’m lucky to be able to work with such interesting animals. In addition to being entertaining characters, they’re always teaching us something new about themselves, or the ocean. Third, I love being able to share our science and discoveries with the world. So many of the things my fellow scientists are working on are fascinating, and I am thankful that I’m in a position to share this with so many people.The most difficult part of my job is dealing with the realities of working with sick animals and a sick ocean. We can’t save every animal, and sometimes working with so many sick animals can be sad and overwhelming. That’s why I work to balance negativity with positive conservation stories.

5. Why are you so passionate about ocean conservation?

As we become a global society, our Earth is becoming a smaller place. It used to feel as though our oceans were limitless, with unending stocks of fish. We are now acutely aware that we humans have a significant impact on the ocean. Many of the patients we see at The Marine Mammal Center are impacted by human actions – entangled in ocean trash or struck by a ship.But just as we have the capacity to have a negative impact, we also have the capacity to save our oceans. Marine mammals hold secrets about human health, and the health of the ocean. I feel a responsibility to share these secrets so that every person has the information they need to conserve this planet we share.

6. What advice would you give to someone who aspires to work in a similar field?
It’s a big job to save the ocean! We need lots of people working hard on many different projects. My biggest advice would be to stay open-minded about possibilities. I knew I loved biology, but it was a Spanish teacher who suggested I do an exchange during high school, and now I use Spanish when I work on international marine mammal projects. You never know how your skills will come in handy in the future. Get out there and volunteer at places that are doing interesting work. The Marine Mammal Center has a Youth Crew program for students ages 15-18, and allows you to get hands on experience rehabilitating marine mammals.

Learn more at: http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/Get-Involved/volunteer/youth-crew/

Lean more about Claire Simeone at Marin Science Seminar here: http://www.marinscienceseminar.com/speakers/csimeone.html

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Birth of the Universe, through Today's Telescopes

by Sandra Ning, Terra Linda HS

A nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Though nebulae are often the focus of space appreciation in pop culture, the universe encompasses billions more phenomena. (source)
     A story is typically told from the beginning, but oftentimes the universe is an exception. As a society, time is measured in days and nights, hours, minutes, and seconds. But even more so, time is apparent to us through the peachy sunrise of dawn, the angry grumbles of an empty stomach at noon, and the fatigue that settles with the darkness of night. It's hard to imagine any of these things in relation to the universe, with its sleepless planets and nomadic asteroids, all swallowed up in an unimaginably large blanket of space. If the universe is a story, and all the galaxies, comets, and stars its characters, where does it all begin? 
     Luckily, scientists have already delved into the origins of the universe, and have resurfaced with new and exciting insights regarding these qu…

"Gnashing, Gnawing, and Grinding: The Science of Teeth" - An Interview with Tesla Monson of UC Berkeley

by Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School

Dr. Tesla Monson studies mammals, especially their skulls and teeth. She is a researcher at UC Berkeley and has a BA in cultural anthropology, an MA in biological anthropology, and PhD in Integrative Biology. 

1. What made you want to study mammals?
Growing up in Washington State, I was always really interested in biological life, and particularly animals and plants. When I first learned about Paleolithic cave art in my undergraduate anthropology class, which is some of the oldest and most beautiful art, dated to more than 30,000 years ago, I became fascinated with the seemingly timeless question, "What makes us human?", "What makes me, me?, "What makes humans unique from other animals?" And "What makes non-human animals different from each other?" Because these questions are focused on trying to place humans within the context of evolution and life on this planet, and because humans are mammals, I have been …

All About Lysosomes

by Angel Zhou, Branson School

Lysosomes, discovered and named by Belgian biologist Christian de Duve, who eventually received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1974, are membrane-enclosed organelles that function as the digestive system of the cell, both degrading material taken up from outside the cell and digesting obsolete components of the cell itself. The membrane around a lysosome allows the digestive enzymes to work at the pH they require. In their simplest form, lysosomes are visualized as dense spherical vacuoles, but they can display considerable variation in size and shape as a result of differences in the materials that have been taken up for digestion. Lysosomes contain an array of enzymes capable of breaking down biological polymers, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids.

The lysosome’s enzymes are synthesized in the rough endoplasmic reticulum. The enzymes are released from Golgi apparatus in small vesicles which ultimately fuse with acidic vesicles ca…