Texas A&M University
|Summer 1999 - Vol. 7, No.
Name: James Linehan Pinckney
Job: Assistant professor in Texas A&M's Department of Oceanography
Birthplace: Savannah, Georgia
Experience: Worked as a research technician conducting underwater surveys of shelf habitats, managing a Loggerhead sea turtle hatchery program, project oversight at an environmental consulting company.
Education: B. Sci., College of Charleston, Charleston, SC ('83); M. Sci., College of Charleston ('87); Ph.D., University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC ('92).
Family: My mother, Phyllis, is a registered nurse in Savannah, Georgia; my father is deceased. My siblings are Mary, Mark, Phyllis and Charles.
I grew up: in Orangeburg, South Carolina, a rural-agricultural town. My father was an auctioneer, so most of my Saturdays were spent traveling around the state helping him with the business. Until the time I discovered there were actually two sexes, I spent most of my free time hunting (just about anything you could shoot) and fishing (freshwater and saltwater).
There's nothing like: watching sunrise on the bow of a ship at sea, snorkeling the reefs of the South Pacific, or hearing the ice groan in an Antarctic glacier.
What I'm most proud of is: all my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews.
Career landmarks: My high school biology teacher inspired me to pursue a career in the life sciences. After receiving my undergraduate degree, I worked for a year as a research technician for the state Department of Natural Resources. My involvement in several different research projects and 118 days at sea on various oceanographic cruises convinced me that I wanted to become a scientist.
I became an oceanographer because: when I was little, I thought Jacques Cousteau was really cool. The National Geographic specials on TV romanticized oceanography as a vocation. I have always been curious about the great diversity of marine life and the environment in which they survive.
Right now I'm studying: microscopic algae (phytoplankton) which form the base of the food chain in estuarine and coastal waters.
I know a lot about: marine ecology, algal physiology, and ecosystem processes.
I want to know more about: man's impacts on fragile estuaries and ways in which we can minimize these impacts.
My dream research project would be: a field study of shallow-water benthic microalgal communities in the Bahamas.
My scientific "heroes" are: Ed Ricketts and Benjamin Franklin.
I'd advise a future oceanographer to: take as many classes as possible in mathematics, physics, statistics, and the basic sciences. Most of the research today is interdisciplinary, so you need a broad general knowledge of all areas of science. Also, practice your written and oral communication skills at every opportunity.
One of the most important issues in oceanography today is: the rapidly decreasing funding for basic research in all areas of oceanography.