In our quarterly series, we ask different scientists the same 5 questions. Join us as we see the world from a scientist’s eyes!
Our 5 questions for Cathy:
- What do you do right now for work?
I am currently the Chief Operating Officer at Ocean First Education. We create
digital marine and environmental science content for K-12 and adult learners. I
am also a scuba instructor, which affords me the opportunity to lead trips
around the globe introducing divers to the amazing world beneath the waves.
Did I mention I do all of this from land-locked Colorado, the (ha-ha) mecca of
marine science?! The ocean impacts us all, regardless of your proximity to it.
Advocating for the ocean from Colorado has its challenges, but we all have a
part to play in its preservation and conservation.
- What motivated you to become a scientist?
I have always loved critters. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was really
young, and I thought I would work with dogs and cats. As I got older, the
animals became larger until I discovered baleen whales – I was hooked!
Growing up in Ohio, the ocean wasn’t easily accessible so, I went to a
university that had a marine lab. That is where I discovered invertebrate
zoology with Dr. Lee Rocket. Here, I thought charismatic megafauna was
amazing, but it was the invertebrates that absolutely blew me away. So
diverse. So uniquely adapted. So incredible. My interests took a turn from the
largest animals on the planet to some of the smallest, most charismatic critters
without a backbone. Discovering more about how these seemingly bite-sized
morsels survived in their world became my focus. I worked with Louisiana red
swamp crayfish in undergrad and mud fiddler crabs in grad school. You can
imagine the years of crab jokes I had to contend with!
- What is one thing about the ocean you want everyone to know?
It’s the invertebrates that make the world go round. Well, the inverts and the
algae. What do the largest marine animals (i.e. mola, whale shark, blue whale)
eat? Invertebrates. Coral reefs are the most biodiverse ecosystem in the
ocean. What are coral? Invertebrates. The foundation of most marine food
webs rely on invertebrates. What are some of your favorite seafood? If you’re a
fan of lobster, crab, oysters, shrimp, or calamari, you’re dining on
One of my favorite quotes sums it up, “The truth is that we need invertebrates,
but they don’t need us. If human beings were to disappear tomorrow, the world
would go on with little change…. But if invertebrates were to disappear, I doubt
that the human species could last more than a few months.” E. O. Wilson
Have you thanked an invertebrate lately?
- What is your favorite marine animal and why?
Like most divers, I’m excited to see a variety of animals on any dive, but my
favorite to find are octopus because they’re so fascinating to observe. They’re so
very different from us.
- What’s been discovered in forests that is mimicked by humans?
If you’re a scuba diver, you understand the importance of your BC, it helps you
obtain and maintain buoyancy. Bony fish like parrotfish, angelfish, and damselfish
have an organ that can do the same thing. It’s called an airbladder and they can
inflate or deflate their airbladder as buoyancy needs change.
Cathy’s love of the water began on the shores of Lake Erie and has grown to
encompass the three oceans she’s visited, thus far! She earned her bachelor’s degree
in biology at Bowling Green State University and her Master’s degree at Florida Atlantic
University. Today, she runs Ocean First Education in Boulder, Colorado.