Mckenzie Margarethe discovered her love for the ocean while growing up in Hawaii.
When Mckenzie was figuring out what she wanted to study in college, she actually chose forensic science first. She was worried that marine science would not offer her financial stability like forensics would.
A year in, she realized that although she was good at forensics, she did not truly enjoy what she was doing. One of her professors suggested that she try out an internship related to marine science.
Mckenzie completed a marine science internship at the University of Hawaii, and she has never turned back since.
Mckenzie is now a marine scientist and naturalist currently living in British Columbia, Canada.
The differences between being a marine scientist and marine naturalist are that scientists do more hands-on lab work — collecting specimens, doing analyses and researching. Being a naturalist involves identifying species and their behavior and being able to effectively communicate this information to people.
Mckenzie is both a scientist and a naturalist with a background in reef conservation and invertebrate ecology. She has even worked on a submarine as a naturalist, assisting the crew and observing the creatures around them.
Mckenzie has been a naturalist for almost 10 years and is full of marine facts to share with others, describing her brain as “a little encyclopedia.”
For Mckenzie, the best part of her job is getting people excited about the ocean.
“When you see someone who has never been around the ocean, and they just get so inspired, and you’re telling them all these fun things,” she says. “Seeing that — nothing beats that.”
Mckenzie says there are simple ways we can do better to help our oceans:
- Source our seafood sustainably. Click here for resources.
- If you live near the beach, get involved in volunteer organizations.
- Educate yourself about environmental policies and fishing practices.
Being a naturalist, Mckenzie gravitated towards using social media as a tool to share information about marine science. She has been a full-time content creator for the past two years, sharing educational videos and posts through her Instagram and Tiktok.
Social media has brought her many rewarding, fun experiences. She had the opportunity to partner with Gillette Venus and was on their Board of Trust-Seas, an initiative to increase the number of women in ocean conservation fields.
Mckenzie’s work with Gillette Venus allowed her to start her own initiative called LGBTQ in STEM, which offers resources, scholarships and support to LGBTQ+ people in the STEM fields.
“A huge part of science is connections and networking, and that can be really tough for queer folks,” Mckenzie says. “Walking into a new space, you never know when you’re safe, so [LGBTQ in STEM] is a safe place to build connections with other queer folk in STEM.”
Being a queer person in science herself, Mckenzie understands and has known the struggles of being in a predominantly male, cisgender, heteronormative field.
During her time in college, Hawaii was in the middle of passing its marriage equality act before same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states. She encountered students and even her own professors who were not supportive of LGBTQ+ rights.
One of her professors who she respected and trusted told her that she did not support marriage equality.
“What I learned from that experience was to be more conscious of if I’m in a safe space or not,” Mckenzie says. “I’ve worked with professors and universities to have signage up, have a pride flag — something that demonstrates that you, [the professor], are a safe space so that queer folks know they are in a safe space.”
Though there has been progress made when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation in STEM, Mckenzie believes there is still much more work to do.
Mckenzie finds a balance between her marine work and social media by being a very scheduled person. She says that she not only makes a schedule for her work tasks, but she also makes sure to schedule in her breaks and rest time.
Her advice to other busy, multifaceted women is to always take care of yourself.
“If I’m not feeling my best, then what I’m giving isn’t my best,” she says. “A lot of times, I see scientists [putting] their work and their passion above everything — above their friends, above their partner, above themselves — just, no. Those things are equally important. Having personal connections and being able to talk to your friends is exceptionally important, and you need to make time for those things.”
Mckenzie is currently focusing on pursuing more research and academic work, hoping to return to school to pursue a master’s and PhD program relating to marine science.
She will continue to inspire people and provide resources online for people to learn about the ocean and marine life.
One of her goals for her career is to have a show or series, similar to Bill Nye’s show but focused on marine conservation and ocean science.
“It’s definitely a little wild, but I find it always good to put your big dreams out there,” she says.