From Landlocked to Marine Biologist

Despite growing up in landlocked Western Minnesota, where freshwater rivers and lakes dominate the landscape, Savanna Hohenstein has always harbored a deep-seated passion for marine biology. Though the Breckenridge, Minnesota, native didn’t know it at the time, her decision to attend Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) for her college education would ultimately lead her to a career pursuing this passion.

As an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major, Savanna discovered MSUM’s Marine Ecology Lab (now known as the Oceanarium) during her studies. She was drawn to the lab, immersing herself in it. In 2019, in collaboration with professor Dr. Brian Wisenden and several peers, Savanna published a research paper on fish behavior.

Savanna’s dedication to aquatic biology expanded beyond her research. She spent many of her free hours to caring for the lab’s creatures and leading tours for fellow students. Wisenden, recognizing her passion and dedication, acknowledges her as a pivotal force that propelled the Oceanarium into a renowned outreach and research facility. However, Savanna's connection to the Oceanarium went beyond her love for marine life. Her father and grandfather helped construct some of the enclosures housed in the Oceanarium. This experience became the catalyst for Savanna's journey into the world of marine biology.


Savanna at the MSUM Oceanarium

Upon graduating in 2020, Savanna set her sights on a career in marine biology. She earned an internship on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s rescue team in Florida. She spent half a year responding to reports of injured dolphins and turtles, among other duties. Savanna continued gaining experience through internships in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Port Charlotte, Florida, for more than a year. Despite working unpaid for nearly two years, she stayed true to her dream of working as a marine biologist. Each internship brought her closer to her ultimate goal of being a full-time marine biologist.

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Finally, in November of 2022, after several unpaid internships, four moves across three states, and 2,800 hours of unpaid work, Savanna was hired as a Rescue Biologist for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she originally cut her teeth as an intern. Now she works as a lead on the aquarium’s rescue team, responding to a 24-hour hotline and assisting sick, injured, and distressed dolphins and manatees.

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Savanna says embracing challenges has been vital in launching her career. For example, she learned to drive large boats and 26-foot box trucks to help transport large animals. She remains adaptable, being on-call at all times and ready to respond in humid, hot, and sometimes dirty situations. Being a rescue biologist involves having a well-rounded skillset, says Savanna. She spends a lot of her time writing incident reports, grants, and outreach materials while also engaging in public speaking and even basic equipment maintenance.

Marine Aquarist Certificate

As Savanna charts new depths in her career, MSUM is paving the way for other aspiring marine biologists. Dragons may now pursue a certificate as a Marine Aquarist, with curriculum focusing on the Oceanarium that Savanna helped create as a student. The legacy of Savanna Hohenstein lives on, inspiring a new generation of marine enthusiasts to dive into the wonders of the ocean.


BS in Biology with Emphasis in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Prepare for a career in Marine Biology, Coastal Ecology, Veterinary school, DNR, Wildlife Management, or graduate school in Animal or Plant Biology.

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