Emily Callahan

Hometown:  New Castle, NH

Current Job Title:  Managing Partner and Explorer at Rig2Reef Exploration, Staff Marine Scientist at the environmental consulting organization, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), an international provider of environmental, health, safety, risk and social consulting services

Work Location:  San Diego, CA

Job Description:  I am currently a Managing Partner and Explorer at Rig2Reef Exploration - an orginization created to spread awareness about the unique artificial reef systems growing on Oil and Gas Platforms. We dive on, study and photograph these reef ecosystems offshore of California, the Gulf of Mexico - and soon platform ecosystems from around the world.

I also work full time as a Staff Marine scientist at a global environmental consulting firm where we focus our work on Environmental Impact Assessments, contaminated site management, biodiversity and environmental baseline studies and offshore ecological evaluations.

I am also a marine science blogger for National Geographic and the Huffington Post

Company, Academic Institution, Government Agency or Non-profit affiliation: Rig2Reef Exploration, Environmental Resources Management (ERM)

Highest Degree Level Achieved: and Area of Study: Masters Degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography

What do you love most about your career?

What I love most about my career is the ability to dive on and explore incredibly unique and beautiful reef systems that grow in the most unexpected of areas- beneath an oil platform of all places! I have always felt most at home living near the ocean, so being able to study and work within its depths is very special to me.  I also enjoy confronting the realities of energy development around the world, and discovering new ways to limit the environmental impact. There are so many different ecosystems and environments around the world and below the ocean- and I find it fascinating to explore so many new territories that lie undiscovered- often in one’s own backyard!

What inspired you to pursue a career in marine science or STEM related field?

I have always had a love affair with the ocean. Growing up on a tiny island off of New Hampshire I spent most of my childhood bent over tide pools, braving the chilly waters and fascinated by what must lie beneath the oceans imposing blue surface. However, my first true moment that made me realize that a career in ocean sciences was the path I wanted to pursue was the first time I rolled over a dive boat and splashed beneath the water. Beneath me an entire city thrived! I had only caught glimpses of the ocean from tv specials and photos, small slivers of its real potential. Floating weightless in this metropolis I knew I needed to explore and learn more about this blue world filled with bright sponges, glittering silver fish and curious sea turtles.

Describe one of the most exciting moments you’ve experienced in your work.

One of the most exciting experiences in my line of work was the first time I we had the opportunity to dive on an oil Platform off of Santa Barbara. From the surface, all I could see were ugly steel beams, massive painted columns and ships delivering supplies. Thus, I had very low expectations of what would lie beneath. I could not have been more wrong. The ocean had adopted this platform and made it its own. Not an inch of its beams stretching down into the depths, were visible beneath all of the glowing anemones, scuttling crabs, darting garibaldi and scallops the size of tennis balls! It appeared as though I was diving on a living, breathing, skyscraper.

Describe the biggest challenge (or challenges) that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

I have faced rejections and challenges many times in my career path, and I have learned that it is not easy to overcome some of the obstacles that lie in my way. I have always been a competitive person, and I have found that I needed to work harder to prove myself as not only a female scientist, but a female diver- completing hundreds of challenging dives, often among a team composed only of men.I have found that the harder I worked to demonstrate my competency in these situations, has only served to foster a deeper passion for marine science. I have found that being a woman allows me to bring a new perspective to my field, and to see the world in new ways.

One of the biggest challenges for me has been being far away from my family and close friends - my support network. Chasing my dreams and opportunities has often meant being far from home, in different time zones and amongst new faces. However, I am lucky in that the love and support I feel from my family makes me feel as though they are never too far away, and really never more than a phone call away. This distance has only made the bonds with my family stronger as I value them now more then ever- and they have thus only encouraged me to dive deeper and explore further.

Who is your most influential mentor and how did they help you get to where you are today.

I would say that my most influential mentor has been my father. From a young age he fostered my curiosity about the ocean by taking me on numerous fishing expeditions and on many trips to the New England Aquarium. He introduced me to my first set of scuba gear, albeit his antique set from the 50’s, when I was in the fourth grade and later he endeavored to get my brother and I scuba certified in order to continue to explore our watery world. My dad also fostered in me a passion for other great Ocean Explorers, such as Jaqcues Cousteau, Bob Ballard and perhaps the greatest woman explorer of them all, Dr. Sylvia Earle.

How do you feel you are making a positive difference in the world?  

I feel as though I am making a positive difference in the world by pursuing a passion and a perspective that unites two seemingly different and typically divisive concepts; Offshore energy development and marine biodiversity and conservation.  I work hard to find the silver lining in the most unlikely of places. The ecosystems found on California's oil and gas platforms have much to offer not only to native species but also to local fisheries, recreational divers and to the overall health of the ocean. Further, these platforms offer a unique environmental benefit, not usually associated with the production and development of oil and gas. A benefit that stands to profit from the existence of the oil rig and its future decommissioning through the Rigs-to-Reefs program.