Women of STEM

A profile series highlighting women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Kerri Allen, Education Manager at Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Kerri Allen, Education Manager at Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Kerri Allen, Education Manager at Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Connect with Kerri on LinkedIn

What do you do?

I work for a non-profit sea turtle research, rehabilitation, and education facility in Juno Beach, Florida. My job is to teach students and adults about sea turtles and marine ecosystems.

At our facility, we have a sea turtle hospital where injured and sick sea turtles are treated and then released; while caring for the animals, visitors are able to see our sea turtle “patients” and learn about how we treat them, as well as the different species of sea turtles that are found in South Florida.

My goal is to communicate the work we do with the public, so that everyone can learn the importance of ocean conservation.

What does a day in your job look like?

No two days look alike- I never know what to expect when I go to work in the morning! My day might begin by walking through our sea turtle yard to see our patients, and talking to our veterinary team to receive updates on how they are doing. I might also teach a field trip to visiting students, or lead an eco-tour or give a presentation.

I spend time each day with our volunteers, telling them about what is going on at the center, and also offering different trainings for them to learn even more about sea turtles.

I spend some time indoors on the computer; I might develop curriculum to use in one of our school programs, work on a grant proposal, or work to plan one of our big campus events.

How did you become interested in marine education?

I started out as a researcher; trained as a Coastal Geologist, my research focused on the physical aspects of the coast. I worked in oyster reef restoration, water quality, estuarine sediment dynamics, beach morphology, ocean observing, and climate science.

While I loved carrying out research and being in the field, I would sometimes feel frustrated that what I was learning was not being communicated to the public. It was through that realization that I began to get involved in education and outreach, and found my passion for communicating science.

How did you get interested in this field?

When I was in the 11th grade, I took an Oceanography class (much to my dismay). One day on a field trip in the salt marsh, I found a banded tulip snail. I had always liked sea shells and collected them my whole life, but until that moment, I never realized there was an animal inside each shell, and that the animal was responsible for creating that shell.

While I had first been reluctant to get into the muddy water at the marsh, I was soon hooked, and the teacher had to pull me out to go back to school! When I realized there was so much about the natural world that was a mystery to me, I knew I had to start learning more.

What kinds of challenges did you overcome to get to where you are now?

While there are more and more women in STEM fields, there still aren’t all that many in the field of geology. My undergraduate degrees are in Geosciences, Environmental Studies, and Geospatial Technologies, and my Master’s degree is in Coastal Geology.

Since I hadn’t been involved in science as a child, there were plenty of times that I felt I didn’t know what I was doing. When I would take a difficult class where I was the only girl, I would get intimidated easily. Fortunately, I had great teachers and professors to remind me that the only opinion that mattered was my own, and if I wanted to succeed, then I would find a way.

In your field, do you have advice on how to navigate from entry level positions to more leadership roles?

Put the time in, work hard, and go above and beyond. Learn as many skills as you can, and don’t be afraid to do something a little outside your field. Moving up oftentimes means that you will manage people, but you might not necessarily know how to do that.

Regardless of your scientific background, it is important to have solid communication and interpersonal skills; no matter how smart you are, it is hard to move up if your supervisor cannot trust you to effectively manage a team.

What advice would you give a student looking to go into your field?

Volunteer or find an internship! The most important thing is to figure out if this is actually what you want to do or not, and the best way to figure it out is to give it a try.

There were several careers that I thought I wanted, but after volunteering at the organization, or taking an internship, I realized I didn’t enjoy it like I thought I would. Now is the time to learn about everything out there, and decide what the right fit is for you

Christa Chatfield, Assistant Professor of Biology

Christa Chatfield, Assistant Professor of Biology

Erica Moulton, Independent Contractor

Erica Moulton, Independent Contractor