This month’s Alumni Spotlight shines on Ricky Alexander from Evansville, Indiana who graduated in 2009 with a Marine Biology degree.
Tell us a little bit about what you are doing now:
I completed my master’s program in December 2015, after about four years of working in various field positions as a NOAA/NMFS contractor across the country and around the globe. After graduation I moved back to New England and started a temporary position with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries as a fisheries technician on the developing Jonah crab fishery. The Jonah crab is a historically underutilized fishery that is gaining traction in Southern New England as the lobster fishery ebbs. We tagged roughly 20,000 crabs that summer, and used image analysis to learn about the reproductive habits of Jonah crabs, a subject about which little is known. In September of 2016, I switched to a position with the Coonamessett Farm Foundation, a Cape Cod-based company that supports recreational and commercial fishing activities, aquaculture industries, and agricultural enterprises through research. I am in charge of three projects: two scallop dredge modification studies and a novel stationary camera array system to track dispersal of benthic critters for up to 55 hours. Check us out at www.cfarm.org!
What is the most valuable thing you learned while at UMM?
Listen to your advisors. I think a lot of people get into marine biology because they like dolphins or because they are super interested in sea slugs. However, there are no major industries based on these animals, so, while cool and worth studying they may well be, you might have to get to a PhD level before you can find employment in these realms. Brian Beal told me to stick with the fisheries if I wanted to keep my lights on, and the fisheries have done just that, in addition to keeping my tummy happy and full of tasty fishes. Your advisors at UMM are real world people, so talk to them about your real plans for the future.
Do you have any advice for current students at UMM?
Read the chapter before class. This way, you’ll be remembering the information rather than learning it. It also really helps you take note of important stuff that will be on the test. Also, get outside and enjoy the phenomenal beauty that is Downeast Maine. Try not to take that for granted. Hike Quoddy Head, check out the beaches, take a drive down to the Downeast Institute and take a tour. And go fishing, for Pete’s sake!
How did your time at UMM prepare you for what you’re doing now?
My professors did a great job of teaching us the most important aspects of our field. Because of that solid base, I feel like it is a rare moment when I feel out of the water (pun intended) while networking at a conference or sitting in on a presentation at work.
How has UMM made a positive impact on your life?
In addition to giving me a degree, which allowed me to chase my dreams, one of the things that brings me the greatest joy in life is my fraternity. These are still the best friends I have in the world. We get together multiple times a year and do fun stuff (fishing/golf tourneys, Greek games at UMM, BBQs, birthday parties, etc.), and it’s always great to catch up and reminisce about our crazy times in Machias. They have been as steady in my life as my family, and I consider them as such.