Brett Jameson

This week on ‘An Interview with WiseOceans’ we spoke with Brett Jameson

Name: Brett Jameson

Role: Postdoctoral Scientist

Company: Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences

Top Tip: It’s okay to fail

Quick Fire Questions

1. What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation? 

I was born in the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada, where the ocean is little more than a rumour. For me, thousands of kilometres away from the nearest coastline cultivated a sense of awe and mystery surrounding the marine realm. When I was 15, I went on a family vacation around the Caribbean and had the opportunity to spend a large portion of my time snorkelling around the reef. I remember being absolutely floored by the sheer amount of life that surrounded me, and how colourful everything was. From that point forward I felt this deep sense of longing to return to the ocean and explore more of it. Following my first year of undergraduate university I had saved up enough money to travel to Australia, where I spent two weeks learning how to SCUBA dive on the Great Barrier Reef. It was a conflicting experience for me, because on one hand I was captivated by the beauty and diversity of the ecosystem, but I was also witnessing the effects of large-scale coral bleaching first-hand. I returned from that trip with more questions than I had answers for, and the curiosity continued to grow from there.

2. What steps did you take or are you currently taking to achieve your career goals?

I transferred to Dalhousie University in my second year of undergraduate study where I completed a BSc in Marine Biology. The following fall I took a short-term lab instructor position at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and volunteered my spare time in the marine microbiology lab. During my time in the microbiology lab I was put in contact with a researcher at the University of Victoria and ended up applying for a funded PhD project in his lab. I’ve now returned to BIOS as a postdoctoral scientist where I am working to further expand on my skillset as a researcher.

3. How did you obtain your current position? 

I began my journey into research at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences as an undergraduate and had an amazing experience. The faculty are fantastic, and the tight-knit community there allowed me to build really solid professional relationships. That experience allowed me to return to BIOS after I graduated as a lab instructor for a semester, where I met a researcher who helped me prepare for graduate school and ended up serving on my committee. When the job posting became available, the same researcher forwarded me the ad and encouraged me to apply. I was already familiar with the project leads from my previous trips to BIOS, and I felt like I had a unique perspective to bring to the team, so I applied and the rest is history.

4. Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

I love having the ability to contribute to the growing body of knowledge about our oceans. The challenge of identifying knowledge gaps, thinking through the best approach to answering your question, executing the experiments, and then finding an effective means of communicating your findings to the broader community is so fulfilling. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to spend a large portion of my time diving on the reef. Even after all these years I still find it so peaceful and awe-inspiring to be immersed in marine ecosystems in that way.

5. Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’? 

I think sometimes it can be difficult to locate the tangible effects of the scientific work. I feel it the most when I am in the classroom, the lab, or the field teaching students. Seeing the passion and enthusiasm coming from the next generation of marine scientists and conservationists gives me so much hope for the future.

6. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?

The biggest lesson I took away from graduate school is that it is okay to fail. In fact, it’s an essential part of our development as scientists and as people. My relationship to failure has changed so much over the years and has now become something I actively seek as opposed to something I try to hide from. Some of my biggest accomplishments have come on the heels of failure.

7. Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?

Being resourceful is a huge asset. Working on open ocean expeditions or remote field locations, you often have to find solutions to problems using the limited materials you have on hand.

8. What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

Try as many different things as you possibly can. I think it’s really important to gain experience in other fields. There are skills that you can learn by working on other projects that may end up translating to your marine work in unexpected ways. It’s also so valuable to be able to bring fresh perspectives and unique ideas to your work.  

9. What is your favourite marine creature and why?

I must give a shout-out to the marine microbes here! It’s tempting to pick something charismatic that people can relate to, but none of it is possible without the microbial processes that are happening behind the scenes.

10. What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?

My first ever night dive is the one that stands out for me. I was in Panama taking my Advanced Open Water PADI certification and had the opportunity to dive at night during a period of strong bioluminescence. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever witnessed, and I found myself tearing up in my mask. It was like floating weightlessly through the night sky!

“Seeing the passion and enthusiasm coming from the next generation of marine scientists and conservationists gives me so much hope for the future.”

Brett Jameson

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