There are hundreds of paths to an ocean STEM career, and some of them may surprise you!

Careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) include diverse roles that go far beyond the traditional scientist in a lab coat. In this video series called Navigating STEM, we’re sharing how our staff navigated the waves on the way to a career at MBARI—and where they’re going from here.

Kelly Benoit-Bird, Acoustic marine biologist

Science is a verb. That’s the philosophy that guides Kelly Benoit-Bird, a marine biologist at MBARI using sound to study how animals make a living in the ocean. Kelly’s curiosity began with a fascination for marine mammals and how they sense a world that’s dark and three-dimensional through echolocation. As the first person in her family to go to college, she navigated the unfamiliar path of becoming a professional scientist. Now, she’s combining technology, biology, and physics to study the ocean. “It’s interesting to use sound because that’s what most of the animals use, so we’re getting sort of a fish-eye view of what it’s like to be in the ocean.”

Brian Kieft, Software engineer

You might think that a software engineer sits at a computer all day, but Brian Kieft shows how his job takes him to the lab, the test tank, and out on the water to design ocean technology. It takes time to find your STEM community, and keeping a positive attitude is essential for Navigating STEM and being an ocean innovator. Brian encourages young students to keep pursuing whatever interests make them excited because “maybe that job that you want doesn’t even exist right now.”

Emery Nolasco, AUV operations engineer

Not every ocean career starts with a passion for the sea. Emery’s engineering path started with a spark for robotics and the community she found among like-minded tinkerers.  “We have so many questions, and if we only have one or two or three people answering those questions or coming up with the ideas, we’re maybe not capturing all of the different perspectives,” says Emery. “You’re the person who’s going to ask those questions and bring those new ideas to the table. And the world needs that, the world needs you and your perspective and what you bring.”