John is a marine biologist who studies marine mammals. He is also the founder of Cascadia Research, a nonprofit organization that studies marine mammals. Cascadia Research is based in Olympia, Washington.

EARLY WORK

In junior high school and high school, Calambokidis started one of the first recycling programs in his neighborhood outside Washington, D.C.

His father was an Olympic sailor, which helped instill an interest in the water and its organisms. “Even though he died when I was young, there was a bit of a maritime tradition there,” Calambokidis says.

After high school, Calambokidis traveled around Europe and Africa, mostly on bike. While in Africa, he visited some wild game parks that “crystallized an interest in taking action to protect the environment and to get more actively involved in conservation.”

MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK

“Identifying questions that no one knows the answer to and the process of discovering something no one else knows.”

MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK

Securing funding and support for research projects.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY?

“To me, geography is all about how all the different parts of the Earth, from animals to plants, relate to geographic places.”

GEO-CONNECTION

Calambokidis believes all the research he does on marine mammals, including blue whales, is tied heavily to geographic issues.

Calambokidis studies what animals are doing in certain areas and what might be critical habitat for them. He tries to identify areas where different animals would be affected by the same environmental changes, and tries to track animal “movements between areas or migrations across geographic regions.”

Calambokidis also discovers what area makes up an animal’s feeding and breeding grounds and what impacts on those regions would affect an animal's ability to survive. He says geography plays an important role in conserving and managing species.

Calambokidis says all the information he gathers is geographically coded so he can determine an organism’s relationship to specific environments.

SO, YOU WANT TO BE A . . .  MARINE BIOLOGIST

“The most important thing in general is to pursue what interests and excites you to bring out your passion and your motivation.”

Calambokidis recommends those who want to enter the field of biology to develop skills in quantitative sciences such as statistics, because these backgrounds are highly sought-after in the profession. Also, he suggests focusing on improving writing skills for writing grants and science reports.

GET INVOLVED

Think locally. “It’s important to get passionate and interested and research those things that are accessible to you.”

Marine Biologist John Calambokidis

Real-World Geography: How people use geography and the geographic perspective in their everyday lives and real-world careers.

biology
Noun

study of living things.

blue whale
Noun

species of marine mammal that is the largest animal to have ever lived.

breeding ground
Noun

place where animals mate, give birth, and sometimes raise young.

code
Verb

to arrange information into a system for communication.

compromise
Verb

to put in danger.

Noun

management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

crystallize
Verb

to become clear or definite.

discrete
Adjective

individual or distinct.

Noun

our planet, the third from the Sun. The Earth is the only place in the known universe that supports life.

funding
Noun

money or finances.

game reserve
Noun

area of land filled with wildlife and preserved for hunting or tourism.

grant
Noun

money given to a person or group of people to carry out a specific project or program.

Noun

environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

hone
Verb

to improve.

marine biologist
Noun

scientist who studies ocean life.

marine mammal
Noun

an animal that lives most of its life in the ocean but breathes air and gives birth to live young, such as whales and seals.

maritime
Adjective

having to do with the ocean.

Noun

movement of a group of people or animals from one place to another.

Noun

an area within a larger city or town where people live and interact with one another.

nonprofit organization
Noun

business that uses surplus funds to pursue its goals, not to make money.

quantitative science
Noun

branch of study that concerns measurement and numbers, such as mathematics, statistics, and information systems technology.

recycle
Verb

to clean or process in order to make suitable for reuse.

secure
Verb

to guarantee, or make safe and certain.

statistics
Noun

the collection and analysis of sets of numbers.

tradition
Noun

beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.