Bob developed and runs the Marine Fisheries-Independent Monitoring
progrom, which assesses the status of fish populations from
numerous estuarine systems throughout Florida.
B.S. Biology, Lynchburg College, 1977
M.S. Marine Science, University of Southern
I majored in biology as an undergrad at Lynchburg College (VA). In
graduate school, I majored in marine science. My graduate thesis
was on the ecology of three species of Menticirrhus (whiting) in
the surf zone of a barrier island off the coast of Mississippi.
I started working for the Florida Marine Research Institute (now
the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute) right after graduate
school. I was assigned a 12-month project in the Florida Keys
working on a fish trap project. After completing that project, I
was reassigned to St. Petersburg, where I began working on juvenile
fish ecology in Tampa Bay. I authored many papers from that work.
About 20 years ago I started the fisheries-independent monitoring
program and have been running that program ever since.
What are you working on now?
I developed and now run a very large program (over 70 scientific
staff members) that involves assessing the status of fish
populations from numerous estuarine systems throughout Florida.
Fish health investigations, feeding studies, growth rates of fish,
and fish habitat studies are a few of the many projects included in
Was work in your current field your original career
interest; why or why not?
Studying fish and their ecology is what I have always wanted to
do. How organisms interact with their environment is very
interesting to me. I continue to be surprised as I learn new
things. I recently cleaned out my parent's attic and found an
autobiography I completed in the 6th grade. In the last sentence of
the report I wrote that when I grow up I want to study animals.
Well I've been able to do that my entire professional life and plan
to continue to do so in to the future.
What would you say is your biggest
My biggest accomplishment has been successfully developing and
continuing the long-term fisheries-independent monitoring program.
The program is very important because it allows us to gather
information on the fish and their habitats throughout Florida. As
the state grows and more stress is placed on these delicate
systems, we need to be able to understand how changing environments
affect the fish.
What do you like most about your career?
I think the aspect of my job that I like best is the opportunity
to be involved in many of the important issues around Florida and
being able to help determine how best to solve problems to ensure
the well-being of the resources. A hot topic right now is the
development of alternative sources of water for human consumption.
That water has to come from somewhere, and when it does, it affects
the water body from which it is taken. This then affects the fish
within the water body. I work with the agencies that withdraw the
water to minimize the detrimental effects of withdrawing the
What do you like least about your career?
The portion of my career that I find least rewarding is the amount
of administrative work I have to do. As the program has grown, I
have become more and more of a paper-pusher. Much of my time is
spent managing people, developing and managing budgets, and
completing reports. I've never enjoyed this aspect of the job, but
I realize that it must be done to keep other researchers in the
What are some of your biggest challenges?
My biggest challenges are typically administrative in nature.
Keeping a large number of staff happy is challenging. Staff members
work extremely hard, work very long hours, sample in all kinds of
weather throughout the year, and work in close working conditions.
Attempting to keep them all happy is difficult. On the scientific
side, my biggest challenge is determining which projects we should
work on and which are less important and can wait until more
resources are available. There is much work to be done, and there
are always limited resources.
What advice would you give to someone interested in
pursuing a career in your field?
The advice I give to those that may be interested in a career in
the marine biology field is to be sure that is what you really want
to do. It must be deep down in your heart that you enjoy this work.
The pay will never be great; the hours will always be long. The
reward is only there if you truly love the work. Those that succeed
are those that love the work. After one determines this is the
right career, then getting an education is a must. In most cases, a
master's degree is required to get beyond the entry-level
positions. Of course, experience is critical. Volunteer; get summer
jobs; do whatever you can to get experience and to make contacts.
There are always many applying for few openings. Networking and
experience will go a long way to getting your foot in the