Episode 30 – Fieldwork Fails and Follies

Seas the Day is back from a summer break! Summer at a marine lab is a busy time when many faculty and students take advantage of the weather and a break from teaching to do ‘field work’. Field work is a core activity in many disciplines, sometimes described as a ‘rite of passage’ on the road to earning a PhD, and something many researchers  look forward to throughout their careers. We asked Duke marine lab faculty, staff, and students to share their favorite (and often funniest) stories of field work. To kick off season 3 of Seas the Day , Lisa Campbell and Rafa Lobo weave together these stories of fieldwork fails and follies. Featuring  Jillian Wisse, Brian Silliman, Dana Grieco, Stephanie Valdez, Matthew Godfrey, Xavier Basurto, Lisa Campbell, and Marty Smith.

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Rafaella Lobo and Lisa Campbell

Rafa and Lisa have been co-conspirators at Seas the Day from the beginning.  This episode is a joint project and reflects their  evolving interests — Lisa in scripting the story and Rafa in editing it.  They worked together to cajole, badger, and ultimately convince their friends and colleagues to share their research stories…

Rafa twitter: @LellaLobo

Lisa twitter: @lismarcam

Rafaella Lobo head shot
Rafaella Lobo head shot

Interviewees (in order of speaking)

Jillian Wisse head shot

Jillian Wisse, PhD student at Dr. Doug Nowacek’s lab

Jillian Wisse is a PhD Candidate in Ecology at the Duke Marine Lab. She studies reproduction and stress in short-finned pilot whales and loves boat days spent musing about bizarre animal behaviors. As a former bartender, she believes strangers often have the best stories and loves being surprised by a good whale tale.

[Editor’s note: Jillian tells her own ‘whale tale’ in this episode. The research described in her story was authorized under NMFS Permit #14809]

Brian Silliman head shot

Brian Silliman, Rachel Carson Professor Marine Conservation Biology

Brain holds both B.A. and M.S. degrees from the University of Virginia, and completed his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University. In recognition of his research achievements, Silliman was named a Distinguished Fulbright Chair with CSIRO in 2019; a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences in 2015; a Visiting Professor with the Royal Netherlands Society of Arts and Sciences in 2011; and David H. Smith Conservation Fellow with The Nature Conservancy in 2004.  His teaching and research are focused on community ecology, conservation and restoration, global change, plant–animal interactions, and evolution and ecological consequences of cooperative behavior.

Gabrielle Carmine head shot

Dana Grieco, PhD student in Dr. David Gill’s lab

Dana is a member of the Ocean Synthesis (3S) Marine Lab  with advisor David A. Gill . She completed her undergraduate studies in 2016 with a B.S. in biology and a marine ecology thesis from Villanova University. Dana then spent the following three years working in marine ecological research and many facets of the fishing and dive industries in Cape Cod, MA, and the Bay Islands, Honduras. Dana’s current research focuses on how fisheries and conservation interventions impact marine social and ecological systems, with a particular focus on small-scale, data-poor marine systems. Her methodology includes interdisciplinary systems-based approaches and participatory research techniques that value fisheries stakeholder knowledge.


Stephanie Valdez head shot

Stephanie Valdez, PhD student at Dr. Brian Silliman’s lab

Steph has a bachelor’s degree inBiology from the University of Washington, she has been a volunteer coordinator for a citizen science organization called COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team), a research technician at the University of Washington and a “mixed assortment of other odd jobs” before coming to Duke for her PhD. She is currently an NSF GRFP Fellow as well as a Luce Fellow.


Crisol Mendez head shot

Matthew Godfrey, Adjunct Associate Professor.

Dr. Matthew Godfrey is a wildlife biologist with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. He is adjunct faculty at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and also at the Department of Clinical Sciences of the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. He has worked on sea turtle biology and conservation issues for several decades in a variety of different countries and field sites.


Crisol Mendez head shot

Xavier Basurto , Truman and Nellie Semans/Alex Brown & Sons Associate Professor

Xavier is  interested in the fundamental question of how groups (human and non-human) can find ways to self-organize, cooperate, and engage in successful collective action for the benefit of the common good. To do this, he strive to understand how the institutions (formal and informal rules and norms) that govern social behavior, interplay with biophysical variables to shape social-ecological systems. What kind of institutions are better able to govern complex-adaptive systems? and how can societies (large and small) develop robust institutions that provide enough flexibility for collective learning and adaptation over the long-term? Trained as a marine biologist, he completed a M.S in natural resources studying small-scale fisheries in the Gulf of California, Mexico, and an MPA and a Ph.D. in Management (with a minor in cultural anthropology) from the University of Arizona.

Crisol Mendez head shot

Lisa Campbell, Rachel Carson Distinguished Professor of Marine Affairs and Policy

Dr. Campbell studies oceans governance broadly, in relation to diverse issues (blue economy, blue carbon, protected species, fisheries, MSP, MPAs, tourism, etc.), and formal and informal processes. She draws on theory from political ecology, political economy, and science and technology studies to study how science and other values, the state and non-state actors, inform governance processes and outcomes across geographic and socio-political scales.

Marty Smith head shot

Martin D. Smith, George M. Woodwell Distinguished Professor of Environmental Economics

Marty studies the economics of the oceans, including fisheries, marine ecosystems, seafood markets, and coastal climate adaptation. He has written on a range of policy-relevant topics, including economics of marine reserves, seasonal closures in fisheries, ecosystem-based management, catch shares, nutrient pollution, aquaculture, genetically modified foods, the global seafood trade, organic agriculture, coastal property markets, and coastal responses to climate change.

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