In May of 2019, I graduated from Allegheny College with a degree in biology and environmental science. I had no idea what I wanted to do other than that it would relate to marine life.

Now, I am in the second year of my master’s degree at Savannah State University, and I’m also a serving as a Georgia Sea Grant State Fellow for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The marine research I’ve done in the past has always focused on a variety of different organisms and subjects, which is why I was excited to gain insight into working in the National Marine Sanctuary System. I primarily work with the science, resource protection and operations teams at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Cristin Alexi Archer with researchers Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

I’ve known from a young age that I wanted to work in marine science, but I never had a specific job or career track in mind. My colleagues at Gray’s Reef have given me an abundance of information, new experiences and skills during my fellowship, and also supported me in figuring out my next steps. Through my fellowship, I’ve gained exposure to careers in marine policy and management, resource protection and research. My colleagues who have worked in, or managed, roles such as NOAA Corp officer, mariner, scientific dive instructor, research coordinator, diving safety officer, marine technician and vessel operation coordinator have provided tangible insight into the responsibilities associated with these jobs. Working at Gray’s Reef has helped me gain a better understanding of which aspects of jobs and internships I enjoy and what I would like to do in the future.

Cristin Alexi Archer on a diving trip at Gray’s Reef.

During my time at Gray’s Reef, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a variety of tasks. I’ve organized public advisory council meetings, administered online conferences, trained my colleagues on new web technologies, assisted in the review of grant applications, participated in panels, developed outreach material, participated in research dives and assisted with research on vessels. I’ve participated in trainings covering diversity in the workplace, boating skills and seamanship, records management and watched multiple NOAA research presentations. My colleagues allowed me to form my fellowship around my interests, so I primarily worked on developing Gray’s Reef’s Team Ocean Volunteer Diving Program. I began diving in 2014 and have since advanced to professional diving certifications as recently as 2020.

While my formal education focus is marine science, my specific interests have transformed into pursuing science through an operational role. I’m not sure exactly what my future job will be, but my time at Gray’s Reef has taught me that I would like to combine my passion for science and diving into a single career track that allows me to research and explore the ocean.