Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and we are celebrating the women in STEM across our Cooke family of companies.
Thank you for the work you do every day for healthy fish, a healthy environment, and for playing a key role in delivering healthy, sustainable food to families all over the world. You are role models, inspiring future generations of girls to follow in your footsteps.
Read on to learn more about some of the amazing women in science at Cooke:
Cooke Aquaculture – New Brunswick
How did you become a veterinarian with Cooke Aquaculture?
I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology (Honours) at Mount Allison University in 2012 and graduated with my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the Atlantic Veterinary College in 2016. I worked as a fish health veterinarian in the West Coast aquaculture industry for my first year in practice and then I settled back on the East Coast to advance my career with Cooke Aquaculture.
I started working with Cooke Aquaculture in the summer of 2017, so I have been here for almost five years!
What are some of your typical duties?
Most of my day-to-day work involves preventative medicine and health management of salmon populations in Cooke hatcheries or marine farms, from egg to harvest.
I am often in the field visiting Cooke hatcheries and marine farms to monitor fish health and welfare. These visits involve doing necropsies on any fish that have died, collecting samples for diagnostic testing, and monitoring the live populations.
My visits also involve discussions with site managers on fish health, behaviour, and biosecurity. When I am not in the field, I am doing data analysis, reviewing fish health trends, interpreting diagnostic results, and developing and coordinating treatment plans as needed.
When did you know you wanted to be a veterinarian and why? What inspired you?
I first discovered the world of aquatic veterinary medicine during my undergraduate degree. I completed my Honours research project in an aquatics laboratory, under the supervision of Dr. Matt Litvak. I already had a strong interest in fish biology and medicine. Dr. Litvak introduced me to the possibility of a career in aquatic veterinary medicine, which would combine my interests. After looking into this field and realizing it would be a perfect fit, I set my sights on applying to veterinary school and pursuing this career path.
When did you know you wanted to work with fish specifically?
Growing up in a family of avid fly fishermen/women, I was exposed to fish from a young age. My passion for science and working in aquatics research during my university studies anchored my interest in building a career centering around fish. Working in the aquaculture industry was a natural fit because it was a great opportunity to work in the production of sustainable protein for a growing global population while contributing to taking pressure off wild stocks.
What are the best or most rewarding parts of your job?
One of the best parts of this job is that every day is different, so it is always interesting, and I am always learning. I love that I can work with and learn from a supportive and experienced mentor, Dr. Leighanne Hawkins, and work within a collaborative fish health team of veterinarians and technicians.
A very rewarding part of my job is being involved in the Fundy Salmon Recovery project as the attending veterinarian of the marine conservation site. I oversee the health and welfare of the wild salmon from their introduction into the marine environment until their eventual release back into their natal rivers once mature.
I have always been passionate about wild salmon conservation and having the opportunity to use my veterinary training to contribute to the success of this project has been a very rewarding part of my work with Cooke.
Are there certain skills or characteristics that a fish health veterinarian must have?
Fish health veterinarians should be resourceful and adaptable to changing work environments. They should be curious and willing to challenge themselves in an industry that continues to grow and develop. They should be lifelong learners and open to gaining new knowledge to contribute to the field. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a strong stomach and not be prone to sea sickness!
What advice do you have for girls who are considering a career in animal health or any science?
I highly recommend pursuing what you are passionate about because it will result in a career path that is rewarding. If you know exactly what you would like to pursue, then don’t be afraid to go for it even if someone tells you otherwise.
I would advise them to reach out and find a mentor in the field of science they are interested in, or at least someone to ask questions about the field. Also, be curious, challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to try something new!
Head of Production Support
Culmarex – Mallorca, Spain
I grew up in a town where farming and fishing were the primary sectors. The sea has always been a big part of my life and has interested me since I was a child.
In university, I was very clear that my studies should be linked to science. My love for the sea and animals led me to Cádiz to study Marine Sciences and I decided to focus on aquaculture.
Culmarex gave me the opportunity to develop professionally 17 years ago, first working in one of the pre-fattening plants located in the north of the province of Mallorca: Es Murterar, initially as an assistant and later as a technician.
This opportunity demonstrated that a woman can be perfectly qualified to work in a profession that traditionally was mostly developed by men. At this stage of the development of fish, the physical work can be hardest – but not impossible for a determined woman.
In 2008, I was promoted to head of the production support department, controlling all aspects related to the environment and the quality of the development of our fish from the hatchery until they are ready to be stocked on the sea farms. Now we are a little bigger company but we are equally excited every day deliver high quality fish to our customers.
Finally, I encourage all women who want to dedicate themselves to aquaculture, or any other profession in science, to never give up.
On-growing / Sea Water Operations
Culmarex – Águilas, Spain
I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was a child. My family, and especially my grandmother, instilled in me a passion and love for animals and never let me give up on this dream.
I chose the branch of scientific studies in my secondary studies since I knew that my professional life would be linked to science.
During university studies of Veterinary Medicine in Murcia, I discovered my interest in branches of this profession that were usually performed by men, such as animal production. But this never deterred me and I never gave up on the idea of continuing to study in these areas.
The world of aquaculture began to catch my attention when I finished my degree and started thinking about my professional future.
I started my first steps as an intern in the laboratory of the Health Department of the Grupo Culmarex. After a few months of internship, I was offered the opportunity to join the team in Almeria as a Health Technician. There I expanded my training in the field, and learned that women are equally capable of performing a job in this field.
Over the years, I advanced in my professional career and I am currently very proud to occupy the position of Veterinary Head of Fattening for Grupo Culmarex.
I hope my example encourages other girls and women to follow their dream of choosing a scientific career if that’s what they want!
Omega Protein – Reedville, VA
Bonnie joined Omega Protein in October 2015 as the Laboratory Technician in Reedville, VA. As the Laboratory Technician, she analyzes all samples of the process from raw box to finished product using wet chemistry in our onsite laboratory.
Bonnie also assists in our customer and regulatory audits, specializing in our mock recall procedure. Most recently, she has been working with our two Gulf plants to standardize procedures and ensure lab safety.
Bonnie is always willing to branch out and learn new skills or perfect current practices. Her attention to detail and drive to learn more is what keeps her going.
Working for Omega has been a natural fit for Bonnie as her father and brother are chief engineers on two of Reedville’s Ocean Harvesters vessels and Omega Protein has always been a big part of her life.
Bonnie has always had a great appreciation for Omega being here in this very rural area as one of the major employers. Making a living being a watermen/woman is tough work but absolutely vital to this area.
When Bonnie is not at work, she enjoys being outdoors soaking up the sun and spending time with her family, friends and dog.
Omega Protein – Reedville, VA
Hannah Smith-Long joined Omega Protein in July of 2021 as the Environmental Manager in Reedville, Virginia. Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in Geographic Science with a concentration in Environment, Conservation, Sustainability and Development from James Madison University. She then went on to pursue her master’s degree at East Carolina University in Geography with an emphasis on Environmental Science.
Omega Protein has been part of Hannah’s life since she was born. Her father has worked for Omega Protein nearly her entire life and instilled her love of the water, hard work and the environment. Hannah is dedicated to educating others on the importance of environmentally-friendly practices, and sustainability, and this dedication to her field is what drives her to work hard.
When she is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, family and friends. She also enjoys traveling and experiencing new places. Hannah is active in the local Wetlands Board, and tutors environmental science and biology.