University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alumna Danielle Cummings earned her undergraduate degree in marine sciences in 2016. She is currently serving as Director of Institutional Giving for the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida working to fund raise for the Fish & Wildlife Commission and its partners.
What brought you to CALS and your department? What first sparked your interest in your major?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to major in marine sciences. I grew up fishing with my dad in Tampa Bay. I read a lot of marine science books growing up and noticed that many of the authors were professors at the University of Florida. This included George Burgess, the director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida. Knowing that the marine scientists I looked up to worked at the University of Florida made it a very easy decision.
Was there a particular CALS faculty/staff or mentor that was influential in your career path?
Dr. Shirley Baker served as my faculty advisor. She is so kind. She helped me come up with a personalized plan of what courses to take, and extracurriculars to pursue to meet my personal goals. I was able to intern with George Burgess for two years before he retired from the Florida Museum of Natural History. During that time I assisted with different elasmobranch research and tagged sharks in the Florida Keys. While in school, I worked as a fundraiser for the local Humane Society. As I gained experience working with different marine science groups, I saw how a lack of funding could hinder good projects. I realized that I enjoyed fundraising more than performing actual science. By the time I graduated, I had a clear vision that I wanted to be a fundraiser for marine conservation efforts.
What do you find to be the coolest/best part of your job/career?
The best part of my job is that I get to blend my skill set in relationship building with my passion for marine conservation. I get to travel all over Florida to meet with donors and connect them to a variety of conservation causes.
“The best part of my job is when I get to tell a scientist we found funding for their project.” – Danielle Cummings
What are some exciting projects you have worked on in the course of your career?
One project that I am very excited to raise funds for is the Florida Bay Sponge Restoration Project. Sponges may not be the most charismatic fauna, but they are important for juvenile fish and lobsters. It has been wonderful to work with the scientists on the project and connect with donors that are passionate about habitat restoration.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in the same major/career path as you?
There are so many career paths in marine science that you can’t even imagine all of them. Try everything you can! UF provides so many hands-on opportunities from sea turtles, to sharks, to gag groupers. Getting a variety of experiences helps you determine what your skill set is and how you can apply that to your passion.
Marine Science students study oceanography, statistics, fisheries and aquatic sciences, and invertebrate biodiversity. Students can focus elective courses on ecology, organismal biology, economics, human dimensions, and/or quantitative or professional skills. Find a CALS major that suits your interests by taking our majors quiz. You can also find information regarding our undergraduate and graduate programs on our website. Questions for Danielle Cummings about her experiences in the Marine Science Department should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.