Feature Day in the Life of: Dr. Kate, recently PhDone student in ecology and evolutionary biology

Hey, I’m Kate (click here for instagram), recently PhinisheD grad student in ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz. I studied the recovery of an endangered marine snail, black ablane, from a disease outbreak in the 1980s, and looked at where we find them years later on the Channel Islands of California. I knew that sea otters, a threatened species and natural predator of black abalone, were moving to reestablish native habitat where these abalone were found out in the open. This left a question as to what happens when protected species interact, which I then also examined during my PhD.

The science-policy interface became one of my passions during this time and I chose to do a post-doc that put me right in the center of it. Currently I am a California Sea Grant State Fellow, a program where fellows are put into state agencies to see the links between science being conducted, management and upper-level decision making. I was placed at the Delta Stewardship Council in the Science Communication, Synthesis, and Decision-support unit of the Delta Science Program (a mouthful I know). I work mostly, as I put it, “translating” current science that is relevant to a healthy watershed and water reliability so that decision-makers, (mainly our Council but also some upper-level agency directors as well) can make their management and policy decisions with the best available science.

I am a firm believer in that science is for everyone and we should all make science-based decisions when it comes to issues that are impacted by science. This is my typical day, working on a variety of things and keeping a good work-life balance.



My alarm usually goes off around 7 am, and I stay in bed checking emails and social media. But my true alarm is when my dog jumps off the bed and stares at me until I get up.


I take my dog on a 20-30 minute walk every morning, which is a good way for me to wake up and catch up on podcasts.


I bike to work every day, aiming to get there before 9 am. I never used to bike as much in grad school, but living in Sacramento where there are pretty good bike lines (and parking is expensive) has made me do it more. I also work inside pretty much all day, so any outside time is good time.


First thing I do when I get to work is check my work emails and catch up on some water related news. This often takes longer than I think it would but sets me up for the day. I also keep lots of lists around (on the yellow sheets) so I know what things I need to get done on what timeline, a practice I have carried from a more unstructured grad school schedule.


Time to actually get to work. Every month, I write up the lead scientist report that covers recent science events and literature. This month, I covered an article on the life history of salmon that used modeling to find the vulnerable life stages of the salmon. It was illustrated in the paper in a great life cycle diagram, but was a little too complicated for decision-makers who want to get to the bottom line. I started making visual abstracts to help with this. Here’s just the start.


An hour and a half later and I have three different possible versions to compare. I send these off to my supervisor so we can decide which direction to go, and then I can make necessary adjustments for readability and comprehension (p.s. Later my supervisor picked option 2, in the middle on the left side).


On Wednesdays, there is a farmer’s market in the plaza across from my office. I’m not big on lunch, but I took a 15-minute break to walk around and grab some fruit to snack on. Sometimes I also bring in my reusable bags so I can get my groceries for the rest of the week.


Back indoors, I work on drafting some future science fridays on Twitter. I do weekly takeovers to bring science to the masses via the internet. I put a lot of research and work into these and I really hope people appreciate them. My topics have ranged from covering specific events, to identifying species, to going over complicated ecological concepts!


I go over my science Fridays with one of our communications staff. We adjust language, think of hashtags, and generally have fun with it. It’s really great that she is not a scientist, so she is my first test to see whether I have explained things in a non-confusing way.


Time to take a lap around the office. As someone who was used to field work and working from home before this, I often find it hard to sit still. I take breaks by walking around our donut shaped office, say hi to people, and come and sit back down.


I have always been an athlete, and fitness is a huge help to my  mental health. As I don’t take a lunch, I never feel bad leaving the office a little early to sweat out some stress at the end of the day.


My way home through Sacramento always passes by the state capitol. Not a bad view at all.


On hot summer days, I get home, take my dog for a quick walk, and make her dinner. When the sun starts to go down and it’s not too hot anymore, we go to the dog park. My dog Hali was still a little hot and decided to go for a dip, leaving me thinking, “Same.”


Finally time to settle down, with some dinner, a cold drink and The Office. Sometimes when I get home, I’ll work on a manuscript leftover from grad school or some job applications, but most of the time, I just want to veg out until it’s time for bed. Then I’ll do it all again tomorrow!


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