Alumni in Action

Paul Anderson, PhD

Research Scientist, Mystic Aquarium

Paul Anderson
Class of 1997
Majors: Marine Science (Biology Concentration)
Minor: Chemistry
Advanced Degree: Ph.D. in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Florida
Where are you now and what are you doing?

I am a Research Scientist at the Mystic Aquarium, a division of Sea Research Foundation, Inc. (SRF), based in Mystic Connecticut. I joined SRF in the summer of 2012 and am currently developing a broad research program investigating how aquatic animals perceive, and interact with, each other and with physical aspects of their environment; and to make sense of these behavioral and physiological interactions to improve the State of the Art of aquarium husbandry and aquaculture.

What does your job entail and how has your Eckerd experience impacted your career?

As a Research Scientist, I am driving a research program with both independently and collaboratively derived questions for investigation. The endeavor involves collaborations with other scientists, aquarium biologists, animal trainers, students, and citizen scientists. I am responsible for writing grants to fund original research, engaging in field and laboratory investigations, collecting and analyzing data, writing publications, delivering presentations, and teaching. I am proud of the education I have received at Eckerd College. My experience at Eckerd trained me to be a scientist, and provided me with the opportunity to explore my interests in marine biological research.

What unique or special opportunities did your Eckerd education provide and how have they impacted your life?

I had the opportunity to conduct several research projects, some as a part of laboratory-based classes, but the most memorable were through Independent Studies that I created with the guidance of my mentor Dr. William Szelistowski, one of which developed into my Senior Thesis. My Senior Thesis investigated a relationship between territorial damselfishes and mysid schools (a small, schooling, shrimp-like crustacean) on coral reefs in Belize, Central America.

Describe some of your best memories or favorite traditions from your time at Eckerd.

Getting kicked off a coral reef atoll in Belize by the Belizean army (and going back); my Saturdays maintaining display aquaria inside the Galbraith Marine Science Laboratory (GMSL); seine netting every pond, ditch, beach, and stream with Dr. Szelistowski and other students; my office with an oceanfront view in the Keck Lab of the GMSL; singing in the choir and the traveling my fellow singers and I had the opportunity to do with Marion Smith and the choir (all over Florida and to New Orleans); playing the baker in "Into the Woods" with an amazing director, cast and crew; complex parties; walks along the seawall at night; festivals; and friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

Describe some of the people who had a profound impact on your Eckerd experience.

Dr. William Szelistowski was my mentor. Dr. Ski molded my development as a scientist. He opened many doors of opportunity for investigation that ultimately led to our collaborative studies in Belize. I hold him in such high regard; I respect him as a scientist, and I strive to emulate his undying passion in science.

Eckerd College was so fortunate also to hold the tenure of Dr. John Reynolds for so many years. Dr. Reynolds is a nationally respected marine mammal biologist and has been an influential figure in the shaping of ideas and policies in the marine mammal community for decades. In my very last semester, Dr. Reynolds took the daunting role of serving as my Ph.D. advisor in Dr. Ski's absence, as he was on sabbatical at the time, and thus saw me through to graduation. It wasn't until after I graduated from Eckerd that I reaped the rewards of Dr. Reynold's contributions to marine mammal biology in collaborations with his brilliantly trained former students investigating bottlenose dolphins off the central west coast of Florida.

Dr. Marion Smith's passion for music had all of his choir members eager to sing, and to share our song with people all over the nation.

Drs. Dean Chapin, Bruce Foltz, Joan Frye, and Jeff Howard are among the amazing professors from whom I enjoyed the opportunity to learn and grow as an adult, as an independent and creative thinker, and as a professional in the curriculum as part of the Honors program.

Mr. Steve Barefield (past Director of Alumni Relations) and Mr. Curt Hinckley (ASPEC member) were tireless in their support of the development of GLBT students and community on campus."

Are there core Eckerd values you see in most Eckerd students and graduates?

Mutual respect, open-mindedness, the character of listening and trying to understand a diversity of viewpoints and ideas, as well as participating in a diversity of experiences to broaden each individual's own personal life experience.

Why did you choose Eckerd?

I was one of the fortunate few who decided I wanted to be a marine biologist and stuck with it all the way through. Eckerd provided unparalleled opportunities to develop in the field, with a world-class faculty, the Galbraith Marine Science Laboratory and the infrastructure it provided to conduct marine biological research, the ability to conduct field work being right on the water and among a diversity of robust and productive marine environments to study.

Using 5 words or less complete this sentence: Eckerd is…

an incubator of growth, enlightenment, and opportunity.

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