Michelle Kinzell

Hometown:  San Diego, CA

Current Job Title:  Professor of Geospatial Technologies

Work Location:  San Diego, CA

Job Description:  I currently teach courses in Geographic Information Systems, Remote Sensing, Digital Image Processing and Physical Geography at the Community College Level. I also work on several curriculum writing projects, creating teaching materials for high school and college level students.

Company, Academic Institution, Government Agency or Non-profit affiliation: San Diego Mesa College

Highest Degree Level Achieved: and Area of Study: Master of Science in Geography, emphasis in Geographic Information Systems.

What do you love most about your career?

I have been able to continue working with the data I collected during my ten years as a field biologist and now create training materials for other students interested in marine biology.  I love working with technology, especially making and analyzing maps of ocean creatures and their habitats.  I also love teaching in the classroom, and sharing my knowledge, experience and passions with my students.

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

I knew I wanted to be involved in education when I had my first teaching assistant position as an undergraduate. I found a skill at explaining concepts and complicated topics and knew I wanted to help others learn.  I have always loved education and learning new things, and knew that by following a career in teaching, I would always be able to learn new things.

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

I have had several amazing encounters with wildlife in natural habitats.  I was able to observe Olive Ridley sea turtles emerging from their sandy nest and make a mad dash for the vast ocean.  I sat in awe and marvel at the tiny hatchlings and their brave venture into the Pacific Ocean. I have observed feeding gray whales, hunting orcas, singing humpbacks, playful Spinner dolphins and nesting female sea turtles with the same sense of wonder.

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

One of the biggest challenges for me has been to balance professional life and personal endeavors.  I get so immersed in my work that sometimes my personal life suffers.  I overcame this challenge by actually taking on fewer responsibilities, fewer projects, and focusing on doing a great job with a shorter to do list.  At first, I thought I would be missing out, but I realized that by focusing on fewer professional endeavors at a time, I enjoyed the experience more and did a better job.  There will always be opportunities, and it doesn't make sense to try and do everything at once.  By focusing on a few things at a time, and moving on when it is time, I stay balanced, energized and excited about my work.

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

My most influential mentor has been Dr. Dawn Wright (Deepsea Dawn).  Dr. Wright was my graduate advisor at Oregon State University and she helped me to learn how to focus on doing quality work on a few projects, rather than being so scattered that my work suffered. She taught me to commit fully to project, finish them with excellence and then make myself available for the next exciting endeavor.

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

Every time a student tells me they "finally get it" or they really loved the class or subject we covered, I know I am making a difference. The great thing about being an educator focusing on marine biology data sets is that I can bridge the gap between science and education.  I know that by sharing the data sets being collected and analyzed by researchers, and creating exciting and engaging curriculum materials, I can open the door for others to discover the fascination and wonder of science.