Erica Staaterman

Hometown:  Truro, MA

Current Job Title:  PhD Candidate

Work Location:  Miami, FL, USA

Job Description:  I work on my PhD thesis, which includes the analysis of acoustic & behavioral data, writing up research papers, and teaching classes.

Company, Academic Institution, Government Agency or Non-profit affiliation: University of Miami

Highest Degree Level Achieved: and Area of Study: Bachelor of science in Biology. Working on a PhD now - almost done!

What do you love most about your career?

I love having the opportunity to answer new questions. My favorite thing is the discovery of cool animal sounds - which usually happens by recording the animals and then listening to them later.

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

I first started working in a research lab after I finished undergrad, and I was assigned a project to analyze the sounds made by lobsters. I never knew that lobsters make sounds! This work got me excited about acoustic communication and I have stuck with it ever since! But truly, I have always been fascinated by animals and I consider myself to be an observer and a listener whenever I go into nature.

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

Listening to acoustic recordings we've made underwater is like spying on the ocean, and you never know what you're going to find. We discovered that mantis shrimp make rhythmic "rumble" sounds and that baby fish make little "knock" sounds. These were things that nobody had considered before, so of course it's exciting when you're the first person to hear something!

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

I started a PhD program in applied marine physics, and I had a background in biology. I was overwhelmed by the courses at first, but then took the time to get additional training and was eventually able to get through them.

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

My uncle inspires me because he is extremely passionate about the natural world, and about the many threats that humans put onto wildlife. He has served as a mentor to me because he is also a very successful scientist and leader in his field. He always encourages me to keep going, even when things are tough, because the world needs passionate people!

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

One particularly rewarding thing for me is when I get to share cool animal sounds with people - I generally get a reaction of surprise and excitement. I love to inspire people by sharing these sounds with them. And when people are inspired, they are compelled to act!