CALS graduate lands ‘cool’ research opportunity

After growing up in coastal cities, UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) graduate Danny Khor found themself interested in

Person standing in the snow wearing a red winter jacket, blue hat, and sunglasses with binoculars hanging around their neck.
Danny Khor in the field.
Photo by Suzanne Winquist, MS student at Oregon State University.

research and understanding the environmental change happening around them. Khor graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marine sciences in 2021. Since then, Khor has worked for Point Blue Conservation Science in a “really cool” (or freezing, if you will) role as an Antarctica Program Biologist through the Roger Arliner Young Diversity Fellowship led by the Environmental Leadership Program. 

In this position, Khor works on a long-term project focused on Adélie penguin biology and ecology. While this position is based out of California, much of the associated fieldwork takes place in Antarctica. Khor spends several months at a time collecting data in Antarctica. Being from Florida, adapting to Antarctica came with new challenges, such as learning to walk on ice and tuning out the bleat of penguins. 

The research builds on a long-term project that has been ongoing for more than 25 years. The research focuses on two colonies of Adélie penguins and investigates breeding success and population demographics. The goal is to learn more about the biology and ecology of the colonies and understand why the penguin population is growing and what sustains them.  

Bigger picture, this study hopes to use the Adélie penguin as an indicator species for the ecosystem as a whole, meaning it could provide insight into the overall environment, and as a keystone species for conservation, meaning its success as a species has positive implications for many other species in the ecosystem. This research can provide insight as to how the ecosystem is responding to climate change and help predict how it will respond to climate change in the future. 

Penguins performing an ecstatic vocalization with its wings spread and beak to the sky, while sitting in its nest. Other penguins sit or lay in their nests behind it.
In the foreground, an Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) performs an ecstatic vocalization (EV) call over its chicks. Behind it, other Adélies sit or lay on their nests. Photo by Danny Khor, ACA permit 2021-004.

Khor gives credit to undergraduate research opportunities and courses in CALS in helping them land this exciting employment opportunity post-graduation. Throughout their undergraduate career, Khor took several classes that pushed the limits of their comfort zone with research and statistics coursework. 

Khor encourages current students interested in marine biology to not shy away from coding and statistics, even if pursuing these skills can be intimidating at first. “I get it, math doesn’t always seem like a fun course, but having a good background in statistics is a big part of how I have gotten jobs,” Khor said.  

During their time as an undergraduate in CALS, Khor took classes that used R, a statistical programming language, and applied their knowledge and skills to work on various research projects focused on manatees, salmon, fish in mountain ranges and more. 

Khor also emphasized the importance of being an interdisciplinary scientist. At UF, they explored a wide range of topics, including art, communications, sociology and more. “New experiences push us outside of our comfort zones and help us grow as critical thinkers,” said Khor. 

Khor’s preparedness did not go unrecognized once they got on the job. “I think at some point my supervisor told me, the fact that you have this experience on your résumé, and you started before you left undergrad, is really powerful,” Khor said. 

Programs in the School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences provide a rich, personal educational experience for students, new discoveries and applications that enrich lives, communities, and natural resources, and lifelong learning opportunities for professionals, policy makers, landowners, youth and the general public. 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.  



Posted: June 7, 2022

Category: Coasts & Marine, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Teaching
Tags: Career Services, Marine Sciences

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