George Matsumoto, Ph.d.
Senior Researcher and Education Specialist
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
This California kid fell in love with the sea and the woods -- and with introducing others to these environments. To research or teach -- or both?
to be a ranger?
Job doesn't exist
not an expert
In college, George felt torn between working on research about the forest or the ocean. The deciding point for him was poison oak, an itchy, oozy allergic reaction to certain plants in the forest. He decided the ocean was where he wanted to be: “There’s no poison oak, and there’s no bugs!”
to be a ranger?
George considered becoming a park ranger before rangers became “peace officers,” requiring them to train for peacemaking and carry a weapon. He didn’t want to do this. “The idea of a ranger, to me, was somebody who’s out walking the trails and talking to people, not carrying a gun or trying to discipline people for camping in the wrong spot.”
MBARI SUMMER INTERNSHIP PROGAM
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s Summer Internship Program provides an opportunity for talented college students (undergraduate and graduate) and educators to come to MBARI for a period of 10 weeks to work on a specific project under MBARI staff supervision. While the focus of the MBARI internship is on the intern’s professional development—learning research techniques and improving communication and collaboration skills—interns also participate in a variety of activities which afford them the opportunity to explore California’s central coast and to establish a sense of camaraderie with their fellow interns. These activities may include: assisting with MBARI’s annual open house event; a “behind the scenes” tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium; and a kayaking trip on Elkhorn Slough. CLICK here.
STUDENT CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION
This organization sponsors groups of students who work in national parks and public lands as volunteers. Get community service hours, spend time in the wilderness, hike and camp, learn leadership, trailbuilding, and use skills, social skills, and more. Return as a leader, as George did. CLICK here.
JOB DOESN't exist:
George wrote a description for a job that he wanted to do at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, but that didn’t exist there. “I told them this is what this job should be and I’m the person who should fill it.” After doing so, he left for three years to do research in marine biology research in Australia. When her returned, MBARI invited him to apply for the job he had suggested. Then everyone got a surprise: they had a lot of applicants for the job.
George’s job was supposed to be 50/50 research and education/outreach. He says he spends much more time on the education part. His response? Roll with it. “It turns out I think I’m better at education than I am at research. I enjoy research but my discipline is advancing so quickly I have trouble keeping up with all the new techniques and analyses. So, to me, research is more like a hobby and outreach is more of my job. And that’s okay with me. My goal is to try to get out one research paper and one education paper a year, and so if I could do that then I figure I’m keeping my foot in both worlds.”
NOT an expert:
Whatever audience George approaches he works to be aware of what those he’s addressing want and need. That requires listening first, recognizing that he’s not an expert, and trying to reach as many people as possible. “For me to be an effective educator I need to find out what those needs and wants are.”