Meaghan Faletti, Biological Scientist
Meaghan Faletti, Biological Scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
What do you do?
I coordinate the Lionfish Outreach Program for the state of Florida. I travel around the state to different events, give presentations, and support fishing tournaments to educate people about invasive lionfish and what they can do to help combat the invasion.
What does a day in the life look like for your job?
During an office day, I answer questions from the public about invasive lionfish, I maintain the Reef Rangers Lionfish Control Program, generate creative tactics for lionfish education and ways to encourage people to get involved.
I also spend a lot of time traveling. An outreach day consists of packing up gear, including tents, tables, displays, banners, promotional items and literature about lionfish. I then set up camp at fishing tournaments, festivals or conventions and get to talk to people about lionfish all day long!
What is the coolest part of your job?
The coolest part of this job is being an active diver. I often get to go SCUBA diving to collect lionfish via spearfishing. These fish are used during lionfish handling and fillet demonstrations at workshops and presentations, and sometimes even in classroom dissections. At the same time, we collect videos either on GoPro or with professional videographers to generate fun educational videos about harvesting invasive lionfish.
Video on Tips for Lionfish Removal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWc0WkFrB1A
How did you become interested in your field?
I grew up loving the ocean and spending time at the beach. Once I found out that marine biology could actually be a job, I focused all of my effort on educational programs and classes that would get me to that goal. I conducted research at the Florida State University on invasive lionfish, a very important topic right now in fisheries management, which led to this specific interest.
What kind of science projects did you do back in middle school?
I remember tinkering and combining simple machines to ultimately perform simple tasks. I also remember constructing a 3-D display of a temperate rainforest during an environmental science class. That project was a lot of fun, and enhanced my interest in ecosystem dynamics.
Did anyone inspire you to get active in STEM or help you along the way?
I remember hiking with my grandfather a lot when I was young, exploring different areas from tidal flats to forests. These experiences inspired me to study the natural world. I had several teachers along the way who also saw my passion and encouraged me further. Ultimately, my advisors at Florida State University really helped me develop the skills needed for the real world. These relationships are important in helping to prep you for a career in your field. They can often offer a lot of good advice that’s applicable to your specific field.
What kinds of challenges did you overcome to get to where you are now?
The biggest challenge I had was finding a career after graduating from college. I applied to countless jobs and tried hard to get accepted to graduate school. I snagged an internship in a biological oceanography lab where I spent many hours looking through microscopes. Though the project was interesting, it was not what I wanted to continue doing. It took some patience to find my place, and I felt discouraged at many times along the way, but I ultimately found a career that fit my interests perfectly.
In your field, do you have advice on how to navigate from entry level positions to more leadership roles?
Work hard. Make connections. Go above and beyond what your job description asks you to do. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but those that can handle their current job and prove they’re able to take on additional tasks are likely to make an impression on superiors and move up the chain.