What happens when you make your hobby into your job

AvatarBy Christine Williams 8 years ago
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Or perhaps “A Tale of When Your Mouth Works Faster Than Your Brain.” Hello all, and welcome to the blog. It’s a pleasure and an honor to participate with a fun, funny, informative bunch of reefkeepers. So, who am I and what do I do? (Insert obligatory ex-governator accent here). I started keeping fish shortly after my son Jeremy was born as a means of not going completely insane while staying at home (the jury is out on whether I was successful). A freshwater tank and some successful fish and invert breeding caught my interest, and I quickly moved onto the greater challenge of a full reef. So, I measure how long I’ve been in the hobby by how big my son is. I’ve currently been a reefkeeper for 49 inches. 

I'm no expert, but this puffer looks a little off.

 Since then, I’ve had the great fortune to travel all over the country giving lectures and workshops at reef conferences, including a couple of MACNA’s. I learned that reef geeks are some of the best, if oddest, folks around, and doing fish necropsies right after breakfast is not such a great idea. Often, when I am traveling, I hear hobbyists wonder “how can I make my hobby into my livelihood?” Most of the time they think about selling frags, or owning a LFS, or working at an aquarium. The approach I took was slightly different: 5 years ago I began working for BASF (yes they make chemicals, no they do not make cassette tapes) as a microbiologist working with skin lotions and potions. One day I was sitting in my lab, silently lamenting the fact that I couldn’t keep a seahorse tank because I had run out of space at home. In walked in my boss, and out of my mouth came “We need to start a 

Will silly staws. All professional laboratories need a stock of silly straws.

 marine active ingredients program!” In the ensuing silence, as he raised his eyebrow and crossed his arms, waiting for the explanation, I thought “ohh…now I need to come up with a reason.” Fortunately whatever else I said that day sounded like a good idea, and today I spend my days working with marine organisms from all over the world for the cosmetics market. And yes, I set up a seahorse tank in the lab. Prior to that, my work and education tended towards veterinary and human medical-type things, so my area of expertise in the hobby tends towards fish and invert pathology, tank-related human injuries and illnesses, and microbiology. A perpetual student, I’m continuing that vein of study as a graduate student in Marine Science at Stony Brook University. You can find me here at Christine@reefs.com, or on the forum as Spracklcat. Welcome!

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