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Diving into Ocean Ecology: Data Science and Marine Conservation Converge

Maurice Goodmans's Journey into Data Science

Maurice's journey into data science through marine ecology and conservation is truly a heartwarming tale of passion and resilience. Despite growing up in Chicago, miles away from the ocean, Maurice discovered the ocean through children’s books and field guides.

“I used to memorize species of sharks as if they were Pokémon,” he recalls.

From Chicago, his path led him to California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo) for undergraduate studies in biology. There, he had his first experiences with scientific research, studying the ecology of Caribbean parrotfishes in the Caribbean and sea urchins in coastal California. His second-year research project introduced him to the world of coding with the R programming language and statistical analysis. The research project was a large-scale, comparative analysis aimed at better understanding why some fish can only be found in a single bay or estuary while others are distributed across the globe. This experience was a turning point, laying the foundation for his future endeavors. As Maurice felt he was learning so much, he had to learn statistics to make sense of all the noise.

Data Science Convergence

Joining Stanford University for his Ph.D. in Biology, Maurice's path converged with Stanford Data Science, where he researches the effects that climate change is having on marine species distributions and ecological interactions. “We’re seeing animals moving into places they’ve never been before, and the rate of change is unprecedented, so we know very little about what these shifts mean for marine ecosystems” shares Maurice.

His work is centered on the spatial distributions of marine fishes in the Bering Sea, one of the world’s most productive fisheries ecosystems, and one with a long history of sustainable fisheries management. Maurice’s research goes beyond academia—working with scientists at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, his work explores vital questions related to ecosystem dynamics, species distributions, and sustainable fisheries management, all aimed at preserving our current and future marine ecosystems. Joining Stanford Data Science has transformed Maurice's academic journey—he's flourishing within an energetic community of researchers across various disciplines, learning something new and communicating with diverse audiences who don’t take the assumptions ecologists take for granted.

Mentors and Future Plans

Influenced by former fellow Scholars like Max Czapanskiy and collaborating with experts like Kirstin Holsman at NOAA, Maurice's work extends beyond academia. He actively engages in understanding climate change impacts on marine ecosystems, such as the fisheries in the Bering Sea, aiming to bridge scientific research with policy actions.

“Climate change is here, and I’m grateful to be working with other scientists who are thinking about how we proactively manage ocean resources to best serve communities and prevent ecological disaster,” says Maurice. Here, too, he reflects on being part of the Stanford Data Science community. “It's been really nice to interface with a lot of other people who think about these problems—about the ethics of data science, and the role of scientists in influencing policy actions or guidelines.”

Looking ahead, Maurice aims to work to integrate ecological knowledge more deeply, such as the impacts of shifting species distributions into the mathematical models used to manage fisheries, aiming for a mechanistic understanding of climate-driven changes in marine populations. His advice for aspiring data scientists is to embrace the vast applications of data science across diverse domains, encouraging interdisciplinary collaborations and structured problem-solving sessions.

Beyond his academic pursuits, Maurice finds respite in nature, particularly in scuba diving and hiking: “I like to spend as much time in the water as I can. If I get to spend an hour or two in a kelp forest, it’s a good day,” he remarks. Maurice plans to reconnect with field research and outreach activities, aiming to inspire the next generation of marine conservationists while growing as an ecologist. Maurice's journey exemplifies the symbiosis between passion for the ocean, scientific inquiry, and data-driven solutions, all of which are necessary to protect the ocean for future generations.