Erin Satterthwaite

Swimming helps marine young find a home!

Contributed by Erin Satterthwaite @evsatterthwaite evsatterthwaite [at]


Animals, Demography, Dispersal & local adaptation, Dynamics, Evolution, Evolutionary processes, First generation, Life tables, Marine, North America, Population cycles, Population ecology, Theory/Computational, Woman


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Presentation Notes

Researcher’s Background

Erin is a marine ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and she studies the importance of dispersal and biodiversity in the ocean.

PB: Why did you become a biologist?

ES: I love the ocean, getting to be outside, solving puzzles, and having fun.

PB: What is your favorite part about your job?

ES: Sharing the wonder of the natural world with others and exploring nature.

PB: What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are?

ES: Being the first in my family to go to college and graduate school has meant that my path often felt uncertain and I have had to rely on others for support and guidance. 

PB: What advice do you have for aspiring biologists?

ES: Make sure you are having fun, challenged, and inspired by what you do. Also, have an open mind because the path to your success is, in many cases, very different from others. It may be a winding and challenging path, but you will know deep down if it is right for you. Only you know that.

PB: Do you feel that any dimension of your identity is invisible or under-represented/marginalized in STEM?

ES: Women and first-generation college and graduate students are often not as represented in college and in STEM.

Research Overview

Take home message of study

Dispersal of marine young is a key aspect of marine populations. Marine babies that swim toward shore are better able to find a home than those that don’t. 

Study system

The figure shows what marine young (larvae) look like. They are microscopic and are tasked with returning to suitable adult habitat. Young that swim toward shore have a better chance of finding home. 

Key Research Points

Main figure

On the x axis is whether larvae were swimming (swimming) or not swimming (no swimming) toward shore. More young were available to settle in suitable habitat when swimming toward shore than not.

Societal Relevance

Unlike many animals on land, animals in the ocean have young stages that disperse, just like trees and seeds. But unlike seeds, marine young (larvae) are able to swim and have important behaviors that affect where they end up. In order to conserve marine populations, we need to better understand where they are born from, where they end up, and how they get there.

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