A person standing on a stool above several glass tanks in a classroom at the lab
Aaron Ninokawa, PhD Student in Brian Gaylord’s Lab, working on one of his own projects at the Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Spotlight On: Aaron Ninokawa

In the third grade, few of us knew what we wanted to spend our life doing. For Aaron Ninowaka, he knew it involved understanding fish behavior which, as a ten-year-old, he hoped would equate to catching more fish. Over time, his love of fishing guided him through two degrees from Cal State Fullerton; a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Chemistry and a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences.

Coupling his background in chemistry with a desire to understand how organisms interact with their background, he began researching ocean acidification. However, it wasn’t until he was hired as a technician for the Bodega Ocean Acidification Research Group at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory that Aaron became interested in how organisms are able to change their environment instead of just being affected by it.

As a Ph.D. candidate in Brian Gaylord’s Lab, Aaron now studies how marine habitat species alter seawater chemistry and the consequences of that altered chemistry for resident organisms. Just as he has learned how marine species have adapted, he too has had to adapt - to find ways to overcome his natural tendency to be an introvert. When it comes to collaborations and networking, learning how to apply his skills and perspectives while working with diverse groups of people has been both challenging and rewarding he says, but has ultimately led to international research opportunities and collaborations.

How do you go from a ten-year-old boy in love with fishing to a marine scientist? Aaron’s advice is to just ask to be involved, even if you don't think you're experienced or capable. Everyone in research needs assistance and he thinks helping out is a great way to build skills as well as create a network of important contacts. There's always some component of a project that you can do.

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