A day at the office for Adam Schaefer is unlike a day at the office for most people. While others are dealing with paper jams and staff meetings, Adam is studying and working with marine mammals on the beautiful Florida coast.
Adam is a researcher and epidemiologist with the Marine Mammal Research and Conservation program at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) in Fort Pierce, Fla. Operated by Florida Atlantic University, the HBOI is a worldwide leader in deep sea exploration and research as well as aquaculture, marine science, biotechnology and marine conservation.
Having graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 2005 with a degree in anthropology and minor in chemistry, Adam went on to earn a master’s degree in epidemiology from Saint Louis University in 2007. During his time in graduate school, Adam also began consulting for SeaWorld.
While Adam’s research revolves around marine life, its applications have much more far-reaching potential.
“I focus on the distribution and determinants of disease and health among marine mammal populations with a particular focus on zoonotic diseases that can impact public health,” Adam says. “Our focus is to use top-level predators as early detectors of problems and potential hazards to ocean and human health in a coastal environment that we all share.”
Adam’s work has led him from the St. Louis suburb of Fenton, where he grew up, all the way across the globe.
“I have been lucky enough to present and publish my research at multiple international conferences and travel around the world,” he says. “Last year, I was able to chair a special conference session in China on the effects of mercury contamination on wildlife species, which was an amazing experience. The work I do is very unique and the opportunity to be a leader in a growing area of research has been both challenging and rewarding.”
During his time at Southeast, Adam was extremely involved in on-campus activities, including being president of student government.
“While I learned a great deal in the classroom, the opportunities I had outside of class have had the biggest impact on my career,” he explains. “The leadership opportunities through student government and other student organizations and the lessons I learned have been very valuable. Becoming involved outside of the classroom is the best thing you can do while you are at Southeast; there are many great organizations that the University offers.
“I have a lot of great memories from Southeast, including my time as Student Government President, but the students and staff I worked with on a daily basis are most memorable. I was able to meet some amazing people and make lifelong friends which I value more than any one experience.”
Adam credits his career successes to a few key factors.
“I have been very fortunate to have amazing mentors starting when I was at Southeast, and those individuals have encouraged and guided my career. It has also been very important to be open-minded and willing to take a chance on unique opportunities when they present themselves,” he says.
Looking to the future, he plans to continue working towards completing his Ph.D. as well as providing opportunities for other students from the Midwest to gain experience doing marine research.
Adam resides in Vero Beach, Fla. In his spare time, he enjoys working on his house, running, swimming and spending time outside in the Florida weather.