Name: Susan Fudge
Born: Newfoundland, Canada
Profession: Marine Biology (Fisheries)
When you think of a kind of environment where you'd be working in for a science job, many would say an office in a building or a lab. But how cool would it be if your office was on the ocean!? Susan Fudge tells us what studying marine life...on a boat, is all about.
What is a Chief Research Technician?
A Chief Research Technician is usually the first contact or go-to-it person of a lab or research group. They set up, operate, and maintain all the lab equipment. They also design experiments, test, monitor, and keep detailed logs of the experiments, analyze results and help write up the research findings so that they can get published in journals for other scientists to read. Being in fisheries research, a lot of the responsibility is dealing with the planning and logistics of field work at sea.
What kind of fish do you study?
Our research group had many focuses, My research interests are in cod reproduction, focusing on temporal (i.e. between years) and spatial (i.e. between areas) variations in egg production and the use of acoustic technologies in studying spawning behaviour. Did you know that cod make sounds during spawning that is thought to be part of courtship behaviour?
What other things are people in your research group trying to discover?
We have a bunch of research projects within our group that take our researchers from Newfoundland to Africa! One graduate student is gathering all the fisheries and oceanographic data available and using geographic information system technologies to study the workings of North Atlantic ecosystems - it's a big job that has never been attempted before!
Another project involves the use of acoustics to learn more about capelin (a small fish that is the main food for Atlantic cod), their schooling behaviour and migration patterns. This research is being done off the coast Newfoundland and Iceland.
We have another international study involving ecological assessment of the coastal fisheries in Tanzania, Africa. This project will involve surveying and cataloging fish species, tagging fish, as well as determining key habitats for commercially important species. So as you can see there's no limit to the research possibilities!
Tell us a funny (but clean) joke related to your profession.
Biology is the only science in which multiplication means the same thing as division.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day depends on the time of year:
During the off-season, my day can consist of everything from maintaining research equipment such as the underwater ROV (remote operated vehicle) to analyzing acoustic data using specialized computer software for fish biomass estimates. We conduct fish hydro-acoustic surveys, based on the strength of the signal that we receive back from the "fish finder" as well as length data we obtain from sampling cod. This is so I can estimate the amount of fish in the area surveyed. For a better explanation of fisheries acoustics check out
During the field season, my days would be spent on a vessel conducting acoustics surveys of fish aggregations (basically using scientific fish finder devices), observing fish behaviour with an ROV, and/or biological sampling for life history studies.
Did you always want to be a Research Technician?
I always wanted to be in the field of marine biology and in research. This job has given me valuable experience and contacts that I can use to further my career.
What do you think is really at the end of a rainbow?
I'd like to think it's Lucky Charms!
What courses in high school prepared you for this field?
All of the sciences, biology, chemistry and physics as well as math.
Where did you go to university/college?
I attended Memorial University of Newfoundland. They have some great marine biology field courses.
How did you decide where to go?
I wanted to spend my first year close to home, after that I realized what better place to study marine biology than in a place surrounded by the sea such as Newfoundland.
On a scale of 1-10, how good looking are you?
Let's say 8, however after hours of fish sampling it's closer to 1!
Was there extra training required for this career after you finished university? If so, what?
Most of my training is learned on the job, there's no better way to learn than hands on! I've taken training seminars for analysis software. There are courses in safety training which I complete as well, first aid, WHIMS, Transportation of Dangerous Goods as well as a Marine Emergency Duties course required for offshore work.
What is the coolest part of your job?
I have to say the coolest part of my job is when I get to spend my days on the water, not many people can say that their office is the ocean. Also the fact that I'm doing something different every day is pretty cool.
What's the most annoying thing about you?
If a friend calls while I'm watching TV, they tend to get ignored, I totally zone everybody out.
What's the worst part of your job?
The first days during an offshore trip is usually rough, especially during the winter...and night shifts.
Ooooops! Everyone makes mistakes so what was the dumbest thing you've ever done at work?
I once forgot to pack a key piece of equipment for field work. That's when I learned the importance of lists!
If you were to sing a song at a karaoke bar, what would it be?
I try not to expose other people to my singing.
Any advice that you would give others seeking a similar career?
Volunteering for research work, or taking part-time student jobs with researchers is a great way to get references and gain experience. You will also learn what you like and don't like.
What are some great web links or references for someone interesting in reading up more about this career?
Department of Biology
Basically any university with a good biology program, look for field-based courses. And research that interests you.