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.
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.”
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.
Think locally. “It’s important to get passionate and interested and research those things that are accessible to you.”
study of living things.
species of marine mammal that is the largest animal to have ever lived.
place where animals mate, give birth, and sometimes raise young.
to arrange information into a system for communication.
to put in danger.
management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.
to become clear or definite.
individual or distinct.
our planet, the third from the Sun. The Earth is the only place in the known universe that supports life.
money or finances.
area of land filled with wildlife and preserved for hunting or tourism.
money given to a person or group of people to carry out a specific project or program.
environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.
scientist who studies ocean life.
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.
having to do with the ocean.
movement of a group of people or animals from one place to another.
an area within a larger city or town where people live and interact with one another.
business that uses surplus funds to pursue its goals, not to make money.
branch of study that concerns measurement and numbers, such as mathematics, statistics, and information systems technology.
to clean or process in order to make suitable for reuse.
to guarantee, or make safe and certain.
the collection and analysis of sets of numbers.
beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.