When I first became Dr. Mermaid, everyone who called me by that name knew where it came from. But now that I’m more of a mermaid-about-town, I realized that I need to explain things. Here’s a diagram that sums it up nicely:
In 2010, I was completing my PhD in ocean and climate physics* and dealing with the stress by bellydancing all the time. I was also working with Kai Altair to create the first annual Mermaid Lagoon, our yearly fundraiser and homage to all things oceanic. It seemed to me that every moment of every day was spent doing physical oceanography, bellydance, or both. I knew that I was about to be upgraded to “doctor,” but didn’t want to lose my sense of self – or my sense of humor – in the title. Hence, Dr. Mermaid.
*I went to grad school at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, which is not a degree-granting institution. From Columbia’s perspective, I was in the earth science department, so that’s what my PhD says. But within Lamont, where everyone is some sort of earth scientist, I was in the division of ocean & climate physics. That’s the most descriptive term, so that’s what I generally use. But my major within the department was physical oceanography.