Conservation biologist Kaitlin Baird’s Letter to her young self

Kaitlin received her Masters in Conservation Biology from Columbia University. She is currently a NOAA fellow for 2012 for the Teacher At Sea program.



Dear Kaitlin,

Be brave. Do not be grossed out by dissecting the frog in science class when you secretly think, that’s amazing!

There are going to be days ahead that are challenging. There are going to be nights you wake up at 4 in the morning to continue to study for Organic Chemistry and there are going to be days that you wonder how on earth you decided you wanted to be a marine biologist. It will all be worth it. There are also going to be people in your life that tell you that it can’t be done, don’t listen.

Be passionate. When you aren’t good at something, and you are challenged, don’t get discouraged. Let your passion shine through. Admit to teachers that you don’t understand, challenge them to find a way that you see it correctly. If you see grading unfair, challenge it! They are put in place to aid you in your career and personal goals, let them be your resource. There may be things like Calculus that you may not be passionate about. See them as a stepping-stone to where you want to be. Understand that there is a difference between being good at something and being passionate about it. Aim for both.

Be opportunistic. Don’t be afraid to volunteer and work for free. Not only does it get you experience, it affords you the chance to show your talent, passion and bravery. Make the most of every opportunity you are given.

Be strong. Most intern positions from high school right on through will involve lifting things! Train to lift tanks, build things, and design. If you don’t know how, ask.

Be comfortable. Your own skin will not be a place you always want to be. Persevere in it, wrap yourself up in it, and embrace that everyone has talent for different things, if you love it, accept your mission!

Be open-minded. Marine science is a lot more then swimming with dolphins. Learn to ask questions about the world around you and understand that NO questions are silly ones.

Be creative. There is always a way to incorporate your talents. You don’t always have to “do” science in the typical way. You can teach it, talk it, pipette it, dive it, write it and many, many others. Explore and try to use as many of your talents as you can.

Be versatile. Learn a lot of different skills and take advantage of workshops and electives. Learning from your grandmother how to knit can be very useful for something in your career you could never imagine!

Most importantly, TAKE RISKS. As you get older you will try your best to take fewer of these, to weigh harder and to think more. As you grow, be open to the experiences that will make you not only a better scientist but also a well rounded woman.


Kaitlin Marie Baird M.A.


Kaitlin received her Masters in Conservation Biology from Columbia University in 2008. She currently helps run science educational programs for Ocean Academy at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. She studied Marine Biology at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. She has worked and volunteered for many marine science organizations such as Save the Bay, OceanView Foundation and The American Museum of Natural History. She currently teaches a module for Columbia University’s continuing education department in Coral Reef Ecology. Kaitlin also directs Marine Science Internship, hoping to shape more young people for careers in marine sciences. She is currently a NOAA fellow for 2012 for the Teacher At Sea program. Read more about Ocean Academy expeditions:

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