Meet Jin-Si Over, government geographer at USGS at Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

"Hi everyone, what a week. My name is Jin-Si Over and being, young, queer, biracial…this hasn’t been easy, but this community makes it easier. I never thought I would be fighting this hard for science to be heard, accepted, and acted upon. Yet here we are.

I was born and raised in the Paleozoic (Finger Lakes) by a biostratigra-father. Fossils everywhere and we live on a drumlin with a sign painted Devonian Park. My mother, who grew up in Malaysia, never quite understood my rock hammer and wellies look. On sick days I played with dinosaurs under lab benches while my father taught. Geology was in my blood.

So of course I rebelled and told myself I would become a marine biologist. This lasted exactly one semester into my undergrad before I became a geology major at UNC-Wilmington. After growing up not quite white in a very rural town, there was a bit of culture shock moving to the south, but the Earth and Ocean Science department was a powerhouse of diverse women, and I was scooped up by two amazing mentors as a first year and I got into forams and bivalve paleoecology. Great stuff. I also became a NOAA Hollings scholar (@noaaeducation) and interned in Hawaii with the UH Manoa Coastal Geology group looking at shoreline change using aerial photogrammetry, then did an #REU at Old Dominion University (found out I did NOT like physical oceanography).

I graduated early, freaked out a bit, took 6 months to backpack, and the day Trump was inaugurated I received a scholarship to attend the University of Victoria. I took it as a sign and moved across the country to get a M.Sc. on 150,000 year old dinoflagellate cysts. Canada was life changing – I got to teach, live in a place that acknowledged first Nations people whose land we were on, and experience some pristine earth. But I panicked again, as I was having trouble justifying paleontology and the modern day issues in the U.S. Close to graduation I broke down crying at a conference when a mentor figure asked me what I wanted to do next. So I applied to the Geoscientists in the Park program (@conservation_legacy) and was offered a position on Sandy Hook, NJ (@gatewaynps) as a geomorphologist/GIS assistant. I learned to survey, code in python, and see how the NPS integrates science. Now, I’m with the USGS in Woods Hole one convoluted journey later and (I started 2 weeks before COVID shutdown the country) I am living my dream. My love for tiny dead things has settled on sand. I use structure-from-motion, machine learning, and my new coding skills to look at the response of our shorelines to hurricanes and it has been a very very busy season.

My successes defy the old white straight male geoscience stereotype (that’s my dad!), though he is my first and foremost champion. Having had the diverse mentor, mentees, and colleague experience, I know it makes a difference. So whatever stage you’re at, I see you – you're not alone and you’re doing great!"

- Jin-Si Over (she/her)

Instagram: @thelostnautilus