Erica Moulton, Independent Contractor
Erica Moulton, Independent Contractor
Connect with Erica on Twitter at @ROV_Erica
What do you do?
Some people would label me an entrepreneur. Others a marine biologist or a marine scientist. I don’t really have a defined job. I’m a lot of things a scientist, an explorer, an educator, a maker, a creator, a tinkerer, a manager, a leader, and a mentor.
What does a day in your life look like?
Every day is different. I’m President of a Maker Space in my volunteer time and yesterday we introduced the Mayor to the Space. Today I am finishing work on some marine science education curriculum and earlier this week I built and shipped out about 30 underwater robotics kits to schools. I also spent time this week organizing the people who will help me review the Marine Technology Society (MTS) scholarship applications.
Next week, I will be in the field diving for several days and then likely doing some grant writing to work on a program idea I have to introduce students to hydrophones.
Does what you are doing now relate to what you were interested in, as a child? How?
Yes! Absolutely! We all participate in, and are a part of, STEM everyday, but most people don’t think about it in those terms. I spend so much time thinking about it, I keep a notebook on my nightstand to write down ideas, and thoughts, and questions. Some ideas are just that, ideas. Others, they are observations and things I might try to understand better.
Did anyone inspire you to get active in STEM or help you along the way?
I was the first in my family to go to college, but so many of my family members have participated in and/or used science throughout their lives.
My maternal grandfather in addition to working at a job, raised chickens. He continually selected birds for specific traits and began cross breeding for all sorts of features from egg color to feather color. He likely didn’t call himself a scientists or geneticist, but by breeding his birds that is the branch of science he was applying to his work. He was also an avid stamp collector (philatelist). He knew a lot about geography and history and I really think it was because of this hobby – he lived to nearly 100!
My paternal grandfather worked at Raytheon and was a self taught engineer of sorts. He was there when the microwave oven was invented. I was in middle school when he passed away, but he loved to take me fishing. I think his influence is still a part of my life.
My parents always encouraged me to explore, ask questions and find answers. My dad worked in construction so we were always building and engineering something, and my mom was a teacher, so we were never short on ways to find answers!
What advice would you give a student interested in your field?
Internships, internship, internships. Do whatever you can to find an opportunity to explore your field of interest before you commit to a full college degree in that field. Not just a one day visit, but a real taste of what a career would be like in this area. I have met many people with science degrees who discover that being inside a lab all day is just miserable. I’ve met others who are just as unhappy doing field work during 12-hour days at sea. They often leave the field of science after just a short time.
A part of this process should also be an in-depth look into salary and lifestyle for people in the career field that interest you. Many science jobs have great hidden perks. For example, if your research work only pays $34,000, but your boss sends you to Hawaii every six months to collect samples, you may end up with a job that sends you to a place you would like to see anyways!
What advice would you give an adult looking to become more involved in your field, either professionally or as a hobby?
Just start. Do something everyday that scares you. Take a class, volunteer at a lab or in a science classroom. Call someone you admire and ask if they need a volunteer, intern, or assistant. Really the worst they can say is no.