Interview: Chelsea Harms from Sea, Field & Tribe

Today, I’m lucky enough to interview the lovely Chelsea from Sea, Field & Tribe. Chelsea is a marine biologist, currently living in Puerto Rico, documenting her life outdoors and sustainable living through blogging. Here she is:


Hi Chelsea! Welcome to Call Me Sassafras; I’m so excited to share you with my readers! Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.

My name is Chelsea and I’m 25 – currently residing in the beautiful Caribbean island of Puerto Rico! I’m actually a marine scientist and I’m working towards my Ph.D. with a focus on ichthyology (the study of fish). I love nature and I love to be creative – I’ve found that these two characteristics are actually quite complementary! I love to be outdoors and you’ll find me out in the ocean on many days of the week – diving with the fish and enjoying the world underwater. I live with my surfer/scientist boyfriend, Evan, who is also working towards his Ph.D. as well. We have dreams to one day open our own “sea semester” company for students to learn about the ocean from a sailboat.

What’s a typical day like for you as a marine biologist?

Well, I’ll give you a typical dive day, because believe it or not, a lot of science is actually writing! But that’s not nearly as much fun as the field work! So, I’ll wake up around 4:30AM and get my gear together for my day underwater. I’ll drive my 1 hour commute to my research station while the rest of Puerto Rico just starts to wake up (my favorite time to be on the road, no one else is around!). When I reach the “island” (because our department is actually literally on what used to be the zoo for the town, a small mangrove island that houses our facilities, classrooms, labs, etc), I get a boat ready with my team’s scuba tanks and gear. I always bring snacks because I’m hungry after each dive! We’ll load up and head out to our study site, which is about a 10 minute boat ride. We’ll anchor and jump in to start one of our three 60 minute dives. Underwater, I’ll survey my site for the presence of lionfish – an invasive species to the Caribbean – and spend some time monitoring the other native reef fish, recording their species and number on my slate. I repeat this three times (= 3 dives) and in between each dive we must give ourselves a little surface interval where we allow the nitrogen that has accumulated in our tissues to be expelled from our bodies before doing another dive (this is basic SCUBA procedure, nothing scary or unusual!). On these surface intervals, we may just snorkel around another mangrove island, swim casually in the beautiful blue waters or nosh on the snacks that I bring to satisfy my never-dying desire to eat haha. We’ll then return to the dock after all three dives, rinse off the gear and get set-up for the next day underwater.  I then usually have to transfer all my recorded data to a digital file online and do a dive log about each day we spend working on this particular project. Can I just say, I love my job!

Don deMaria

I’ve heard a lot about your project with the lionfish. Can you explain what the lionfish are and what your project involves?

Sure! I wrote a proposal to study the control methods for the invasive lionfish in Puerto Rico. The lionfish (Pterois volitans) is an Indo-Pacific fish that many people keep in their aquariums because they are very beautiful. Some of these “pets” were released into the Atlantic Ocean in south Florida after they got too big for their tanks. Unfortunately, this is a horrible habit of pet owners (please don’t do this!). Just six fish have now been responsible for invading the entire Caribbean and up the east coast of the US in just a few years. So my project is looking at how we can “control” these fish, because there is no way we will ever eradicate them and they have no natural predators over here (they have venomous spines that keep bigger fish from eating them). This project will last until June 2014, so please do follow the updates on our website:

Why should anyone care about the lionfish and other invasive species? What can we do?

The lionfish is an invasive species. Something becomes “invasive” when it is introduced into an environment that it was not originally found in, and then grows, populates and integrates into that system. Another example is the python in south Florida, which is another case of pets being released into the wild. These invaders can cause serious damage to an ecosystem – they are predators that compete with native organisms in ways that those animals don’t know how to respond. For example, the lionfish eats a lot! It targets small juvenile fish of many of the native reef fish that we as humans like to eat, and that could be detrimental to our fisheries.

You also post a good bit about traveling. Why is traveling so important to you?

Traveling is a looking glass to the world. If you want to experience another culture or learn something new, just visit someplace you’ve never been! This is part of the reason why I chose to do my graduate studies in Puerto Rico – I wanted to learn Spanish and live someplace different for a few years out of my life.  I’m so grateful for my wanderlust, because I feel like there is just so much out there I want to learn and experience. But also, find that happiness in your daily life, don’t wait on someone else to show you or bring it out. If you need to go place new to discover it, do it! Don’t wait, because life is short. Go see the world! Easier said with money, I know! But be a tourist in your own city even! You’ll be so surprised what you discover that you had no idea existed – and you’ll just be cultivating a better part of yourself for doing it.

And before we wrap up, what’s the most interesting destination you’ve ever visited?

India! I love India, the culture, the food, the colors, the people. I spent two weeks there over a Christmas holiday and I saw a lot of the southern part of the country. I cannot wait to go back again – I’m thinking of doing a culinary tour where I just eat my way around, and I’m dying to do a yoga/wellness retreat there too. I love visiting parts of the world where life is so contrasting to mine. There is so much to learn and so many places to visit, but India is definitely one I want to return to many times.

Sounds great! Thank you so much again to Chelsea for visiting here today. For more of Chelsea, visit the blog or her etsy shop, follow her on Twitter, or email her.

P.S. She also has a giveaway going–check out here.

Your thoughts here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s