John Taylor

Oceanography M.S. '20
John Taylor aboard R/V Electra with the cod end of the tucker trawl used to catch juvenile fish for research.
Alumni Spotlight Q & A:

Where are you from, John?

I was born in Manassas, Virginia, and raised in Baldwinsville, New York.

What was your major at UNH and who was your adviser? 

In 2018, I received my Bachelors of Science at UNH in marine, estuarine, and freshwater Biology. In 2020, I graduated from UNH with a Master of Science degree in Oceanography under Dr. Kai Ziervogel in the Ocean Process Analysis Lab (OPAL). My thesis investigated how sediment resuspension in Lake Erie contributes to the formation of cyanobacteria blooms.

Why did you choose UNH?  

I was lucky enough to receive both my BSc and MSc from UNH. When looking for undergrad programs, the combination of knowledgeable faculty, amazing research infrastructure, and a beautiful location made coming to UNH an easy choice. After my first four years it felt only natural to stay and do a masters. While in grad school it was amazing to see all of the state-of-the-art and world-renowned research going on inside EOS and the university. It was obvious that UNH not only had wonderful undergrad programs, but exceptional graduate studies as well. During my 6 years on campus there wasn’t a day that I didn’t love being in Durham. 

What were your favorite courses and which professors had the greatest impact on you?

All of the courses in the Oceanography curriculum were excellent. Marine Microbial Ecology with Dr. Kai Ziervogel was a great experience where we had the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the subject through literature review and class discussion, while also getting hands-on experience in the lab. Chemical Oceanography with Dr. Robert Letscher was also one of my favorites. I learned so much in that class and Rob was a great instructor who made complicated subjects not only understandable but more importantly, enjoyable.

What did you think of the campus and extracurricular activities?

One thing about student life at UNH that really made it great was the plethora of student clubs and organizations. There is something for everyone!

How is UNH addressing the social cause you are most passionate about?

UNH, EOS, and SMSOE put great effort into outreach and community engagement, which I think is a hugely important and often neglected part of being a scientist. Participating in Ocean Discovery Day and having the opportunity to share our passion with younger students and the general public and showing them the amazing science going on in their backyard is one of my fondest memories. Being able to work with NH Sea Grant, whose offices are located in EOS, taught me that our scientific discoveries don’t just have to lead to a journal manuscript, but can also have a real impact in the community.

Four color photos of student working in lab and on ship.

What is your current position and why is your work important?  

I am currently a Marine Ecotoxicology PhD student at the department of ecology, environment and plant sciences at Stockholm University in Stockholm, Sweden. I am researching how cyanobacteria blooms in the Baltic Sea affect the growth of fish and their accumulation of toxins and pollutants. Some days I may be out on the boat sampling fish and plankton, and others I may be in the lab analyzing toxins. No two days are the same and it is one of the many reasons I love being a scientist.

What are your future career plans?  

I love being curious for a living and it is something I hope I can do for the rest of my life. I guess in the current hierarchy of academia this means leading my own research group, wherever in the world that may be.

How did UNH contribute to your career and where you are now?

UNH gave me all of the skills I needed to be a successful scientist. Between laying the foundation of how to formulate scientific questions all the way to conducting my own independent research, UNH played a huge role in where I am today. Most importantly, working at OPAL showed me that when you are around passionate and intelligent people who are good human beings first and scientists second, that being in our line of work is the best job in the world.

Any advice for undergrads/grad students who are conducting research?

Never say no to an opportunity. If you have the chance to go out to sea, do it. If someone asks you to help with field work, do it. You never know what will spur a new idea or build a new bridge. It is these connections and experiences that can shape your future.

"Never say no to an opportunity. If you have the chance to go out to sea, do it. If someone asks you to help with field work, do it. You never know what will spur a new idea or build a new bridge. It is these connections and experiences that can shape your future."

What can be improved so that other students conducting research have an improved experience? 

It would be nice to have more facilitated dialogue between other students in our own field and across departments. People struggle with various entities in grad school and I would be nice to get together and discuss experiences. I believe it would be beneficial to discuss not only pitfalls, but triumphs as well. Although sometimes it may not feel like it, I’ve learned you’re never alone in what you are feeling, you just need to meet others feeling the same way. More often than not, it makes you feel a lot better.

What makes you proud to be affiliated with UNH?

UNH has wonderful faculty producing top-tier research. My experiences at the university have given me the opportunity to be a successful scientist anywhere in the world. I’m proud to be a part of the population that has had the pleasure to call Durham home.

What impact do you hope your work has on future generations?

I hope to be able to show the world and future generations that everything is connected. The sun affects the phytoplankton which affects the zooplankton which affects fish and so on… This means that an action that can be beneficial for one thing has the potential to be detrimental to another. This philosophy is important to keep in mind when making scientific decisions as well as decisions in everyday life.



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