“Mariah is a very bright and passionate scientist who has a keen sense for both science and policy. More importantly she has the rare talent to work at that difficult interface and somehow maintain a sunny disposition.”
Mariah Pfleger loves the ocean. Always has. As a child growing up in Detroit, Michigan, she learned about it by watching nature documentaries and from family vacations in Florida. She knew at the age of five that she wanted to be a marine biologist and let her parents know in no uncertain terms.
So Florida State University was an obvious choice for college.
While at FSU, Mariah worked on marine sponges in Dr. Janie Wulff's lab. But she knew she wanted to work on sharks and so started in Dr. Dean Grubbs's lab where she became involved in field work. Her very first taste of it was a week-long shark survey trip off the Florida Gulf coast in the middle of a very hot summer. Mariah handled the conditions like a pro, learned every job required for the survey and became an integral part of Dr. Dean Grubbs's research team for several years.
"I knew then she would succeed in anything she chose to do."
Dr. Dean Grubbs, FSUCML
She went on to complete an undergraduate thesis on the coastal sharks of Virginia lagoons and their use of habitat as part of the FSU Undergraduate Marine Biology Program in the Department of Biological Science and the FSU Honors in the Major Program. She also completed a Women in Math, Science and Engineering (WIMSE) project.
“I can confidently say that without FSU and the marine lab, there is no way that I would be where I am today. The opportunities that were given to me during my time at the marine lab allowed me to build my skill sets and fast tracked me into my dream career.
The best part is that the sense of community that I experienced while a student there did not end when I graduated. I still reach out to my friends and mentors at the marine lab when I have questions or need advice.”
Mariah left FSU to continue her education at the the University of West Florida where she earned a Master's Degree working on deep water sharks. Her thesis work resulted in the recent publication,
"Squalus clarkae sp. nov., a new dogfish shark from the Northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, with comments on the Squalus mitsukurii species complex. Zootaxa, 2018; 4444 (2): 101 DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4444.2.1
wherein a new species of dogfish is described and named after the famous shark lady, "Lady with a Spear", Dr. Eugenie Clark. (Dr. Clark was a pioneer in marine research, first director of the Cape Haze Laboratory in Sarasota, now known as the Mote Marine Laboratory, and long time faculty member at the University of Maryland College Park.)
Mariah's deep interest in conservation led her to work as a marine scientist with Oceana a well-known NGO dedicated to marine conservation where she was part of the responsible fishing team. Since her time at Oceana, Maria is now a Legislative Assistant in the United State Senate with Ocean, Wildlife, Water, and Agriculture Policy.