Information Science and Management: Joan Herrera

Joan is FWRI's Curator of Collections. She oversees a vast reference collection of preserved biological specimens and associated ecological databases.

Joan HerreraDegrees
B.S. Animal Science, College of Agriculture, University of Florida
M.Ed. Science Education and Curriculum, College of Education, University of Florida
Ph.D. Zoology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Florida

The above degrees, plus marine science coursework at the University of South Florida and Friday Harbor Labs (University of Washington)

Ten years of postdoctoral experience teaching at the University of Florida (UF) (courses included all 4 introductory biology courses offered by UF and marine biology)

Ten years of seasonal underwater archaeology/paleontology work with the Aucilla River Prehistory Project of the Florida Museum of Natural History, acted as a diver and dive master, directed outreach and education, developed a virtual exhibit that is still online, coedited and laid out their newsletter

Taught summer programs/classes for Center for Precollegiate Teaching and Education and Marine Biology/UF, Biology and Marine Biology/USF, and Marine Biology/GCRL (USM)

Worked for several years with the Florida Museum of Natural History on various projects, including a number of paleontological digs (manatee ancestors in Jamaica, Pleistocene echinoids near Ft. Pierce, FL, raninid crabs near Panacea, FL), and as a research associate in the Invertebrate Paleontology Division

Worked two years as a marine exhibits consultant on the design and construction South Florida People and Environments Hall at the Florida Museum of Natural History.


What did you work on as Curator of Collections?
The most recent project was called "Historic Patterns of Biodiversity in Florida's Coral Reefs". We summarized the data on all the coral reef related specimens acquired during the five decades that collections has been in operation.

We are also worked on species identification and specimen preservation for the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP) and collaborate with a number of outside researchers and programs including the Consortium for the Barcode of Life.

How is this information beneficial?
The information from the biodiversity on coral reefs will provide a baseline on the species and communities historically found on Florida's coral reefs. This information can be used to guide restoration and species replacement efforts. Working with the SEAMAP program allows us to operate more efficiently by keeping most of the work in-house at FWRI. Collections also gains access to thousands of specimens, many of which we can lend to scientists for additional research. It is important to get the most research value possible from the specimens that are preserved in the course of FWRI projects.

Was this your original career interest? Why or why not?
Yes, I grew up on the water in St. Petersburg and have always been fascinated by marine life.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
My work with the Aucilla River Prehistory Project and on the South Florida People and Environments exhibit. They were both huge endeavors that required tremendous teamwork and that resulted in products of which we were all very proud.

What do you like most about your career?
Scuba diving, working with students, and encountering animal species that I have never seen before

What do you like least about your career?
Paperwork and administrative tasks

What are some of your biggest challenges?
Searching for funding

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in your field?
Gain as much early experience as you can. And, the further you go with your education, the more options you will have in deciding your future career path.

FWC Facts:
Dolphin, or mahi-mahi, grow remarkably fast, reaching sexual maturity in just 4-5 months, and growing up to 3 feet in one year.

Learn More at AskFWC