Kyle Pisano '17
"My current work is not only in my field of study, but also in my exact interest, corals!"
Graduation Year: May 2017
From New Salem, MA
Living in Hollywood, FL
Current Career Title: Coral Nursery Manager
Business/ Organization you work for: NOVA NSU, Halmos Oceanographic Center
Did you start and finish your degree at Unity College or did you transfer in to Unity? If you transferred in, where from and why?
I transferred to Unity for my sophomore year. I had previously been a Computer Science and Biology major at a state university. While I enjoyed computer science, I could not see myself sitting in front of a computer five days a week. I chose to go to Unity because they offered a marine biology undergraduate degree, which is not so common, and because Unity offered a much more hands on and in-the-field education than other places I considered.
What was your favorite thing about your time at Unity College? Did you have a favorite tradition?
My favorite thing about my time at Unity was getting to re-work the wet lab when we got the gift from the Clifford family. It completely transformed the wet lab and it was amazing to be a part of it.
While that was a one-time event, my favorite regular thing to do on campus was play Dungeons and Dragons with the RPG club every Friday night until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore.
What advice would you give to current Unity College students?
Every experience and opportunity is only as good as you choose to make it. Take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you and don’t be afraid to make your own. Be proactive and ambitious.
Did you utilize career services for you internship or career search? If so, in what ways?
I was fortunate enough to not need to, but I had plenty of friends who did.
Where did you complete your internship(s) and what types of experiences did you have?
My internship was actually on campus. I was the Wet Lab Manager from 2016 until I graduated.
This was my first experience designing systems from scratch, from drawing tanks and plumbing to picking out filtration equipment and lighting. I learned a lot about coral husbandry and system design.
Is your current job in your field of study, or did you end up going a different direction than you thought?
My current work is not only in my field of study, but also in my exact interest, corals!
Tell us a little about your current job and what it entails:
I am currently a graduate research assistant working as the Coral Nursery Manager for NOVA NSU on Florida Reef Tract Rescue Project. We are working in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to rescue Caribbean corals native to Florida. Corals are removed from the reefs in areas that are not yet impacted by Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). Our goal is to save as many different genotypes of our target species as possible in order to use them for restoration and replanting once the disease has receded.
I get to go out on the collection cruises with the divers and work as topside assistance. This involves cataloging the coral, tagging, and mounting the coral onto a tile. However, my primary role as the nursery manager requires me to be back on land with the corals in the nursery. I run the day-to-day operations and perform the bulk of the maintenance, from water changes, treating disease, to repairing water pumps. In addition to running the nursery at NOVA, I also develop coral culturing systems for other organizations, such as University of Miami, and am also working alongside the AZA team to improve coral aquarist training programs.
Are you happy in your current career?
Is there anything you would have done differently education wise?
If I had the opportunity to go back and redo my undergraduate years I would still go to Unity, although I would have just started there instead of transferring.
Did you feel Unity College prepared you for your career?
Yes, Unity does an excellent job at providing the combination of traditional classroom education as well as in the field and hands on practice that many employers and graduate programs are looking for.
If you haven’t already, are you considering graduate school down the road?
I am currently enrolled in the Master’s program for marine biology program at NOVA NSU.