Shelby Norris: Leading Women in Marine Science

Shelby NorrisShelby Norris is a 21-year-old undergraduate student seeking a degree in Marine Biology. Currently attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Shelby is originally from Tennessee, and two years ago moved to Orlando, Florida to get some work experience with marine animals. While in Florida, Shelby worked for SeaWorld Orlando, SeaLife Aquarium, and a big cat rescue center called Central Florida Animal Reserve. She stayed with these places until she felt like she had learned what she needed from them.

Two months ago Shelby made the decision to finish her degree up in North Carolina. She picked up a job as a veterinary assistant at an animal hospital, and as a diver in a local aquarium. She is passionate about marine conservation, education, and about making new discoveries!

Briefly describe your current work and your research.

I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, seeking a Bachelor’s Degree in marine biology. I am currently working as a veterinary assistant at Coastal Carolina Animal Hospital and as a diver at the Fort Fisher Aquarium.

What do you love the most about your job?

Working with the animals! My job as a veterinary assistant is very rewarding—as any job regarding the health of an animal is. My job as a diver is a lot more exciting! Marine animals are my passion and it’s awesome to swim with them every day and to have an opportunity to educate the guests at the aquarium as to why these animals are important.

Shelby Norris 2How difficult was it to get where you are today?

Since I am still in the early stages of my career, it hasn’t been too hard. It’s taken a little bit of initiative to seek out opportunities for myself, but the primary challenge right now is getting through school and getting my degree.

What was the biggest obstacle in your way before your career reached where it is today? How did you overcome it?

My biggest obstacle has always been getting through school. I feel as though I’m wasting my time seeking a degree when I could be learning all the same things doing field work and getting hands-on experience. I don’t thrive in a classroom setting.

What are you looking forward to the most in the future of marine science?

New discoveries! There is so much more for us to learn.

Shelby Norris 4How do you think we can get more women involved within marine science?

Becoming a little more inclusive towards any education level. The marine science community should be especially kind to young and aspiring female scientists—those are the scientists of the future. They are also the ones with a more malleable sense of direction towards their futures, and one bad experience relative to the field could turn them away from it entirely.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring female marine scientists?

Build a platform and use it to be kind, helpful, and informative. I’ve messaged scientists online (specifically Twitter) with questions, and too many times I get a rude, cold reply in return. We should never be condescending anyone who is coming to us for answers.

In one sentence, why do you think a career within marine science is a great career option?

Without the ocean and what it gives us, we have no life here at all.

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I would like to give a massive thank you to Shelby Norris for participating in this interview. I cannot wait to share more of your stories and I hope that you find inspiration in learning of other journeys within marine science.

Are you a woman working within marine science? Would you like to share your story and inspire the next generation? Please get in contact with me at if you would like to be involved with the Leading Women in Marine Science Interview Series.

Disclaimer: All responses to the interview questions belong to Shelby Norris. The biography and all photographs used also belong to Shelby Norris.

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