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Meet Dr. Holly Edwards 

1) Any childhood memory that was important in guiding you into your occupation?; how did you become interested in this Field?

I knew from about the age of nine that I wanted to be a Zoologist. I knew I wanted to work with animals but was not aware of what you call someone who did that for a living. One day I heard a girl on a TV game show say that she wanted to be a Zoologist when she grew up. At that point I had a name for what I wanted to be and it never changed.

2) Any person, role model or leading authority that greatly influenced you? (a parent, 6th grade teacher, scientist etc...)

I had a 9th grade biology teacher who was not overly optimistic about the opportunities in the field of biology. I worked extra hard to prove her wrong. I now have a wonderful job in the field of biology, partly because she gave me the desire to prove I could do it. The moral of the story is where there is a will there is a way.

3) Your background: (job title, profession, education/training etc...)

Currently, I am a Biological Scientist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission studying manatees. I am involved in population assessment and monitoring (i.e., conducting aerial surveys and calculating survival rates), and migration, movements and behavior using satellite telemetry.

Prior to my employment with the FWC, I worked for 10 years as a dolphin, sea lion and seal trainer at the Oklahoma City Zoo. During my employment at the zoo, I also worked towards my Master's of Science and Doctorate degrees in Zoology at the University of Oklahoma. I graduated in 1999 (my undergraduate degree was from Arizona State University). My Masters degree program involved studying magnetism in birds as it relates to bird's migratory abilities. My PhD dissertation involved studying the status and ecology of a little known dolphin species, also called tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis), in Central American (Nicaragua). In addition, during my graduate studies, I worked odd jobs conducting surveys of the endangered American Burying Beetle for the Oklahoma Biological Survey, and I worked as a curatorial assitant identifying and cataloging dinosaur bones for the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

4) Can your job ever be dangerous?

Yes. When we capture manatees to attach the satellite tags or to rescue sick or injured animals they are encircled with a large net and pulled onto a boat. This can be a dangerous situation for both the people and the manatees. It requires that the crew and captain of the boat be very skilled at working with nets and large animals.

5) Favorite work story or experience: (One of your most exciting, memorable, or exhilarating experiences in the Field!)

One of the most exhilarating experiences I have had in the field was when a pod of Califronia gray whales (in Baja Mexico) surrounded our boat and were spyhopping (sticking their heads out of water) to look at us. I was able to see one the earth's largest, most fascinating creatures up close (within 20 feet). I was able to look into the large eye of this animal and see it as a magnificent living being.

Gray Whale

6) What advice can you provide to a student who might be interested in working in your occupation some day?

Education! The field of zoology and marine mammalogy in particular is becoming very competitive. Advanced degrees in the biological sciences, as well as some experience, are now mandatory to finding jobs in this field. The desire to work with animals is not enough anymore.

7) Any family members, including pets?

I am single and have three dogs (Toulouse, Bear and Maggie), and one bird Mundo.

8) Favorite book(s), Favorite food(s), Any hobbies?

I love to ride horses, play softball and fence. I also love to travel and have been to about 30 different countries. My favorite book types are books about historical events and books about biology (E.O. Wilson books are wonderful). My favorite food is Mexican food and cookies.

Holly H. Edwards, Ph.D.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Florida Marine Research Institute

St. Petersburg, FL

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