UW Oceanography Undergrad Making Waves in France

Q&A with Marine Lebrec, UW Oceanography graduate. Interviewed by Meegan Corcoran, UW Oceanography Port Captain.

1. What initially interested you in the field of oceanography?

Having grown up in France, I spent my summers on the Atlantic surfing and sailing, and eventually started scuba diving when I moved to Washington. My exposure to the ocean at a young age coupled with my interest in science made oceanography a perfect fit for a career path.  

2. Why did you choose UW Oceanography?

I came to the UW as a freshman without knowing what I wanted to study, so I signed up for electives in many different fields. My first introduction to UW Oceanography was through a course called “The Changing Oceans” taught by Dr. Mikelle Nuwer. I was very inspired by this class, so shortly after taking Mikelle’s course, I signed up for the major. 

3. As a student, what did you like about the program?

The UW Oceanography program is inter-disciplinary and very hands-on. I had the opportunity to work with incredible professors and peers through coursework, working in labs, and volunteering in the field as much as I could. During my junior and senior years, I found it rewarding to take specialized, non-competitive higher level oceanographic courses as a culmination of everything I had learned in my general science classes. 

4.  What is your favorite memory at UW Oceano?

One of the highlights of my time as an oceanography student at the UW was spending a quarter living at Friday Harbor Laboratories, where I took courses on invertebrate biology and marine botany (ZooBot Quarter) while conducting an independent research project on the health of sea stars in the San Juans. Rather than sitting in a lecture hall, we spent most of our days in the field, or looking at organisms and plants in the lab.  

5. What have you been doing since graduation? 

Since graduating, I have worked as an oceanographer at the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) with Dr. Jan Newton. Part of my work involved leading cruises on the R/V Barnes and the new R/V Rachel Carson to study the extent and effects of ocean acidification in the Salish Sea through taking water and biological samples. I also provided support for the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) where I served on the Education and Outreach Committee. I am now headed to Monaco to work for the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center and the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network as part of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency! 

6. Did you ever get to sail on the UW's research vessels?

Yes!! I sailed on the R/V Thompson numerous times. I was at sea on the Thompson for 3 weeks for one of the legs of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) cabled array deployment off Newport, OR. I also helped with a seafloor mapping and seismic reflection cruise in the Catalina Basin in Southern California. Additionally, I volunteered for the deployment of the NANOOS Cha’ba buoy, and the Environmental Sampling Processor off of La Push, WA during my senior year.  

7. What are you up to now that you graduated?

I have started working at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center (OA-ICC) in Monaco. My position here includes supporting the OA-ICC through communicating ocean acidifiation research and building capacity in the field of ocean acidification around the world through training courses, collaborative research projects,  dissemination of scientific literature, among other activities. I am also a part of the 'Distributed Secretariat' for the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON), along with colleagues at NOAA's Ocean Acidification Program and IOC-UNESCO, to support GOA-ON's various efforts including its data portal/ website, regional coordination, development of the Sustainable Development Goal 14.3.1 Methodology, and other exciting projects.

8. Do you have advice for future students?

My biggest piece of advice would be to talk to professors and ask lots of questions. If you can show that you are passionate about a subject, people will recognize that and will be more willing to help you in your academic career. This in turn will help you in gaining professional experiences outside of the classroom. My second piece of advice would be to say “yes” to any field work opportunity. UW Oceanography has access to state of the art research facilities and vessels, so take advantage of it!