Jordan Holder

Jordan Holder
Jordan Holder
Track:  Tropical Marine Ecosystem Management
Graduated: December 2018
What is your current job and main responsibilities?
I am currently a Biological Science Technician at Biscayne National Park in Homestead, FL. I am part of a team that was hired to mitigate impacts to coral reefs imposed by Hurricane Irma, which occurred in 2017. That being said, my main duties include tasks surrounding coral reef restoration. There are three main activities that my team and I are conducting to improve reef conditions within the park: removing marine debris, actively restoring stony corals, and to a lesser extent, performing disease intervention. We are also removing marine debris from mangrove forests and seagrass beds. Although these are the main responsibilities I currently hold, I never know what situation I’m going to be presented with each day and based on the needs of my division, I may have to switch up my role altogether! Therefore, I occasionally survey terrestrial vegetation, monitor reef fish populations, and even perform boat maintenance.
Tell us about your MPS internship, and in what ways did it help you develop professional skills and connections?
I completed my internship at Dry Tortugas National Park as a Lionfish Intern. My fellow intern and I were tasked with conducting lionfish surveys on reefs within the park and spearing any lionfish we observed. Sounds like a terrible summer, right? In addition, I assisted with many different activities that the Resource Management division was conducting, including sea turtle nest surveys, coral disease monitoring, iguana trapping, and invasive plant removals. Just like with my current job, flexibility was key, as the needs of the park were ever-changing! Completing these different tasks helped me beef up my resume and provided me with skills that I could apply to a range of potential occupations. In my current job, I use almost all the exact same field skills I gained during my internship. In addition to the hands-on skills, I gained more logistic competence by learning how the federal government operates and how work needs to be conducted as a federal employee. Having experience traversing the federal realm was a crucial factor that significantly helped me obtain the position I have now. It can be hard to gain experience working for organizations such as the National Park Service, and therefore internships like the one I completed that stem from the partnerships RSMAS has with other organizations are extremely valuable. The partnership aspect relates to what I believe is the most important thing I gained from my internship: connections. I was able to meet numerous individuals from different organizations who were doing various types of marine ecology work in the park. This helped me build my professional network substantially. I still currently work or have worked on other projects with a number of the people I met during my internship. In fact, I actually met my current boss out at the Dry Tortugas, which certainly helped me obtain the position I hold today.
What are your favorite RSMAS memories?
My favorite RSMAS memories come from the places I was able to visit through my coursework. I thoroughly enjoyed weekend trips to the school’s Broad Key Research Station during the Field Techniques in Marine Ecology class I took and will never forget the amazing diving I was able to do in Bonaire via UM’s Research Diving course. The time I had exploring the waters surrounding the Miami area through the MOCC boat operator course was also amazing. Even though the most memorable experiences I had occurred primarily off-campus, the one thing that I loved the most about RSMAS was present on-campus as well: the sense of community. Everybody seemed to know everybody, I always felt welcomed by anyone I encountered, and there was always a sense that you were surrounded by kind people who wanted to help you succeed. Finally, the Wetlab also deserves a mention, as I built many fond memories and important connections there on Friday evenings.
What were your favorite classes at RSMAS and why?
My favorite classes at RSMAS were the ones that involved any type of fieldwork; however, I enjoyed all my classes because they directly applied to what I wanted to do for my career. As a person who loves being out and about instead of sitting behind a desk, I enjoyed hitting the water during the Research Diving Techniques course, completing surveys in the Field Techniques in Marine Ecology course, and cruising around Biscayne Bay during MOCC. The challenge of developing the skills I gained from these courses was highly rewarding and is why I enjoyed these courses the most.
What piece of advice would you give to current or incoming MPS students?
The best piece of advice I would give to current or incoming MPS students relates to something I mentioned earlier: connections. Make the most of being at a school where many of the lead scientists in your field do research and where numerous prominent professionals from potential future employers are tightly interconnected with the community. Send those emails to professors whose research you’re interested in, volunteer for organizations that you want to work for, and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone by interacting with people from different groups. You never know who’s going to be hiring! While you’re in the mix you can sow a lot of seeds from which you may be able to reap the benefits later, however, once you’ve left RSMAS and no longer have direct access to its network, it’s somewhat difficult to get back in the loop! In addition, take advantage of all the resources available to you. Bottom line: don’t just go to class, study, take the exam, and get a passing grade. Go out of your way to get involved in the numerous extracurricular activities going on. Doing so will set you apart from the rest and may help you get ranked above the other competitors for that position you’ve always wanted!