Faculty Detail


Dr. Kara Lavender Law


Research Professor, Oceanography

It’s a good thing Chief Scientist Kara Lavender Law doesn’t make snap judgments. Here’s how she remembers the cruise for her SEA job interview from Key West to the Bahamas : "I was sick as a dog my first day, it was pouring rain and I was freezing, laying on the deck. I was miserable, I thought, ‘I’ll do any other job than this.’ But the next day the seasickness passed, we had a few days of nice weather and by the time I got off I thought, ‘This is great.’ I realized I wanted to work at SEA." She was hired.

Kara, 31, with a PhD in physical oceanography from Scripps, combines teaching at SEA with researching currents in the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution lab of Breck Owens. It was while doing post-doc work at WHOI a few years ago that Kara considered SEA. "I’ve always wanted to teach," says Kara, "and this seemed like a really good opportunity because I would be in the classroom and at sea doing research."

Brenna Mahoney, 21, is a Cornell senior and was a student of Kara’s on S-189. Brenna recalls rising around 3 a.m. after just two hours sleep to deploy a trawl for her project on copepod migration; to Brenna’s disbelief, Kara got up to help. "She was so full of energy on the boat, so bubbly," says Brenna. "When she brought up the Tucker trawl she said, ‘I think your hypothesis is correct! There you go!’ It’s nice to know she was excited about it because I was. It’s obvious that she loves what she does."

A native of Chappaqua , NY , Kara majored in math at Duke. She didn’t grow up visiting the ocean, but during her junior year, Kara studied at Duke’s marine laboratory. "I knew at some level I wanted to be at the ocean," says Kara. As a senior, she discovered physical oceanography, combining her love of math with the sea. Kara headed off to Scripps, studying large-scale currents.

While on land, Kara enjoys kayaking, running, cycling, and hiking. In July, Kara and a friend backpacked the 93-mile Wonderland trail encircling Mt. Ranier , climbing and descending 23,000 feet in 11 days.

One thing that keeps Kara energized are unique SEA moments. "Watching students see their first dolphins or whales or amazing sunset, you just see this kind of raw ‘Wow, look at that.’ This kind of teaching is so unique, you’re experiencing it."