Hi all, my name is Naomi Mathew. I am a PhD study in marine mammal bioacoustics at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I am the co-founder of Whale Scientists. Here is my story.
Texan world traveller
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, I grew up with the Gulf of Mexico as my backyard. My love of marine biology and orcas spurred at the age of three when I went to SeaWorld San Antonio. It is one of my earliest and fondest memory, seeing that majestic orca zoom past the glass. I was hooked ever since. I obtained my Bachelor of Science in marine biology from Texas A&M at Galveston (TAMUG) in May 2018. During my time at TAMUG, I attended a study abroad program (December 2015- January 2016) offered in New Zealand with my mentor, Dr. Würsig, where we got a basic overview of various methods to survey cetaceans as well as sea birds. We were even fortunate enough to help with a necropsy of a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale.
Summer 2016, I spent three months in Savona, Italy with an internship at CIMA Research Foundation (where I met my friend and colleague Anaïs Remili). We went on numerous surveys to expand on on-going population estimates of the eight residential cetacean species found in the Ligurian Sea. The project I was mainly assigned to was the research vessel surveys, where our focuses were heavily placed on Cuvier’s Beaked Whales and acoustic tracking of sperm whales in the Northern Ligurian Sea. CIMA wanted to have their interns have the opportunity to experience all the survey platforms, through which I had the opportunity to conduct surveys off ferries and whale watching vessels. We would then create an intricate map on GIS. My internship lead me to write an unpublished paper showing a decline in population sightings from 2011-2016.
I volunteered my time during my senior year of undergraduate in the Miglietta Genetics Laboratory at TAMUG from 2017-2018. Here I learned the entire process, from start to finish, of how to not only extract DNA but to read its sequences and perform the necessary analysis. Through this, I aided with the scyphozoan DNA barcoding project in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2017 I worked with a non-profit organization called Artist Boat in Galveston, Texas where I was part of the Bucket Brigade. Through that branch, I lead beach tours teaching the participants, of all ages, about Galveston beaches and the various organisms that inhabit the waters as well as the land. I talked briefly about its water chemistry and why the water is turbid. This helped me better understand how to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public who have a great influence on how we treat the environment.
MPS in Marine Mammal Science: Miami
I started my Masters of Profession Science within the marine mammal science track in August 2018 and graduated in December 2019 through the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
For my thesis, I spent three months in Pretoria, South Africa collaborating with Professor P.J. de Bruyn from the University of Pretoria and the Marion Island Marine Mammal Programme (MIMMP). My work focused on analyzing Forward-Looking InfraRed (FLIR) footage to understand and observe the Marion Island killer whale nocturnal behavior. I have a Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) certification, obtained through MSeis, and a Motorboat Operator Certification Course (MOCC).
November 2019, I volunteered for Louisiana State University’s (LSU) research and professor Dr. Homberger’s colleague, Dr. Ted Cranford, and his colleagues Dr. Winston Lancaster and Dr. Joy Reidenberg as an aid in a neonate gray whale head dissection in San Diego, California. Dr. Cranford’s primary focus was on gathering more information on his CT work to better validate his hypothesis on how mysticetes hear low-frequency sounds.
PhD in Louisiana
Starting Fall 2020, I will begin my PhD journey in Earth and Energy Sciences at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. My research, which I am still trying to whittle down, will generally entail a bioacoustic study of the marine mammals of the Gulf of Mexico, in which we will try to understand how environmental and anthropogenic effects impact the extreme data deficient marine mammal species. From there, my long term goal is to become a professor to help further science and education of marine mammals.
Apart from my studies, I love to be outside (preferably by the water!), run, draw, paint, and read. I am a sucker for board games, I love hanging out with my friends and especially adore traveling. I try to say yes to every opportunity for a new adventure, though there have been ups and downs, it hasn’t disappointed me yet!