Kelton Clark (2004)

From an “Ecologist Directory” maintained by the ESA Education Office about 2004-2005. Profile circa 2004.

Degree                                                    Ph.D. 2001 (University of Maryland)
Position                                                  Director
Department                                            Estuarine Research Center
Organization                                          Morgan State University

kclark“There be Scientist”. When early European mariners constructed maps of the world, at the edges of their known world they wrote, “There be Dragons”. They were wrong. For it is at the edge of the world scientists dwell.

My Aunt Barbara tells me that as a small child I was interested in marine biology.I remember being absorbed in Jacques Cousteu and his adventures that I watched on T.V. However, it was 15 years after high school before I decided I wanted to become a Marine Biologist. I had very little information on what that entailed but my wife and I moved to San Diego because I knew that Scripps was a good school. Fortunately I met Susan Williams, who mentored me through my BS in Biology at San Diego State University.

After graduation I began an internship at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland and remained there as I went on to get a doctorate in Marine Ecology from the University of Maryland at College Park. At SERC, I met another mentor, Anson “Tuck” Hines, who mentored me through graduate school and beyond…As one of a handful of African Americans in the marine sciences, I feel strongly that minority students need avenues opened for them to find out about science careers.

My training is in estuarine community ecology. More specifically, I work on how marine communities are structured based on the response to variability, predator–prey dynamics, and habitat availability, etc. structures communities. I taught Ecology at Morgan State University, was a Program Manager for the Smithsonian, and am currently the Director of Morgan State University’s Estuarine Research Center in St. Leonard, MD.

How as scientists do we communicate to diverse audiences? We must do so in a way that is clearly grounded in the norms of science. Scientists are a social construct supported by society only as long as we adhere to the norms set for this construct.One such norm is objectivity. Ecologists are increasingly seen as environmentalist and advocates. As that view increases the value that society puts on ecologists will erode proportionately.

I have said to students in the past I am a marine biologist so I can go outside and play. I have a PhD so that I can do what I want. For me it was a long road from the uncertainty of high school to becoming an intern at SERC, a marine biologist and eventually the director of Morgan State University’s Estuarine Research Center. Along the way I came to believe in the power of mentoring.Surround yourself with positive role models, but take ownership of your own destiny.

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