Karen is an internationally respected scientist who has dedicated
part of her career to the study of dinoflagellates and harmful
algae. The scientific name of Florida's red tide organism,
Karenia brevis, is named in her honor.
Degrees / Certifications
B.A. Zoology, University of South Florida,
M.A. Marine Science, University of South Florida,
Ph.D. Biology, University of South Florida,
2005 to current: Harmful Algae Specialist, Florida Institute of
Oceanography, University of South Florida.
1963 to 2003: Laboratory technician, biologist, laboratory
supervisor and then Chief of Marine Research, Florida Marine
Research Institute/Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, all at 100
Eighth Ave. SE, St. Petersburg. Stepped down from administration
and went back to research in 1993.
What are you working on now?
I am a University of South Florida, Florida Institute of
Oceanography employee working on federal grants and a state
contract and assigned to the FWRI. My contract and grant work
centers around developing guides to the identification of harmful
algae and methods for their analysis. It also includes completing
research and manuscripts on dinoflagellate or phytoplankton
systematics and ecology associated with previous grants and current
collaborative projects. I am also an instructor in various national
and international harmful algae workshops or courses, concentrating
on unarmored and armored dinoflagellates in marine waters. There
are over 50 HAB dinoflagellates in the Gulf of Mexico and my work
concentrates on those that are associated with red tides that cause
shellfish poisonings like Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning. You can
go to the Red Tide section to find out more. You can also see a
presentation I made to middle class students at
www.marine.usf.edu/pjocean/video/index.html that is a video
What would you say is your biggest
My biggest accomplishment professionally has been in describing
the sequential stages of HAB formation from initiation to
dissipation, pointing out the importance of life histories of the
organisms that cause HAB's in why we have HAB's, looking at the
historical evidence of Florida red tides caused by Karenia brevis
on the west Florida shelf, and in describing new heterotrophic and
mixotrophic benthic dinoflagellates in the Pfiesteriaceae.
What do you like most about your career?
Two things. One, over the years, what I have liked most are the
people I have met and worked with - their enthusiasm, dedication,
and resourcefulness. Two, learning is an unending experience and
science is infinite, every day something new is recognized.
What do you like least about your career?
I chose this career but I wish there would be more remuneration in
the form of a higher salary for marine scientists in government,
particularly in today's market.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
To build projects that are successful in the sense of receiving
fiscal support from different sources, successful in producing
quality data, successful in sharing that data with other
scientists, successful in publishing that data.
What advice would you give to someone interested in
pursuing a career in your field?
Go to college and at first major in a broad field like biology,
zoology, or botany, then for an advanced degree specialize in a
topic you have particular interest in. Your initial exposure to
knowledge needs to be broad so that you can learn to synthesize and
integrate what you have learned from various disciplines. Start off
as a generalist, then become a specialist. It would be worthwhile
to know that there are jobs in the field so that when you graduate
you know where you can apply. Marine science or marine biology jobs
are not glamorous; many are in the laboratory of on a research
vessel but without diving, say with endangered species. There of
course are those jobs, but those only represent a fraction of what
is out there. All of these opportunities allow for discovery and
that is the essence of science. You probably will surprise yourself
with what you learn and how you increase the knowledge base through