10 QUESTIONS FOR
In Marin / Q&A
1 What’s something about our oceans you’ve recently learned? I’m constantly surprised by the
many ways in which marine mammals serve as sentinels of the sea, providing us with insight into threats
to ocean and human health. When we see animals
like California sea lions with specific diseases or toxins in their body, we’re alerted to the dangers they
face, which affect humans. Rescuing these animals
can help raise the alarm and inspire public action on
threats like pollutants, ocean trash, overfishing and
2 Any advice on how we can protect our oceans and its marine mammals? Pick one simple change
that you can implement today, such as not using plastic drinking straws or switching to a reusable water
bottle — and commit to that change.
3 What is your favorite TED talk? My favorite TED talk is Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why: How
Great Leaders Inspire Action.” We often focus on the
“what” or “how” of our work but Simon’s inspiring talk
reminds me to always think about the “why”: why is
my work vital for conservation?
4 Which marine animal faces the greatest threat of extinction? Hawaiian monk seals are one of
the most endangered marine mammals in the world.
I’m proud that the Marine Mammal Center plays a key
part in the conservation efforts for this species.
5 Who has been your most memorable patient at he Marine Mammal Center? California sea lion
pup Laverne was rescued with a number of problems,
including eye inflammation that turned into a cataract.
We removed the cataract, but she needed medica-
tion to treat the infections and help with the swelling
after surgery. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to
give eye drops to a wild animal. Laverne’s case gave
us a great opportunity to try a new treatment option
that I’d been developing: a slow-release gel that
retains drugs at the site of injection for up to a week.
Since the gel only needs to be administered once a
week, Laverne was less stressed and required less
human interaction. The eye gel successfully treated
6 Describe a typical day at work. A typical day can vary wildly. I might do clinical care of our animal patients or explore new medical treatments that
could help animals heal more quickly. Later I might
spend time working on research for a scientific paper
or textbook chapter. Often I participate in calls with
other scientists and government agencies to work on
challenges such as unexplained mortality events in
7 What first inspired you to become a scientist? My father was an environmentalist, and some of
my earliest memories with him were watching David
Attenborough and asking questions about nature.
I credit my father with inspiring me to love science,
wildlife and the environment.
8 Jacques Cousteau or Sylvia Earle? Sylvia Earle. She was a trailblazer at a time when women scientists were few and far between, and she continues
to be a wise voice who is using her platform to inspire
ocean conservation around the world.
9 What part of your job do you find the most challenging? Finding a balance in communicating the dire need for conservation efforts among
marine mammal species while igniting positivity to
inspire a change.
10Favorite body of water in Marin? Rodeo Lagoon in the Marin Headlands. I’m lucky to
live and work by its shores, and I love watching all of
the wildlife that call this serene place home. m
Dr. Claire Simeone’s normal habitat is at Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center, where she is a
conservation medicine veterinarian working at the intersection of marine mammal and human
health. This April she will take a break from caring for the animals there to appear
with 19 other change-makers from four continents at TED2018 in Vancouver.
Simeone is the first veterinarian selected as a TED Fellow. We caught up with
this Bay Area scientist before she headed north. KIER HOLMES