You can pick your job, but you can’t pick your co-workers. Luckily for Annie Townsend, she picked a great job that happened to have great coworkers.
So it was bittersweet when after almost 40 years, she retired from the Pelagic Invertebrate Collection at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. As excited as she is to start this new chapter in her life, it’s the interaction with her colleagues at Scripps that she' going to miss the most.
Townsend, who graduated from Alabama A&M University with a degree in zoology, came to Scripps after moving with her husband to San Diego where he was attending law school. She began working with Scripps research biologist Edward Brinton in the Marine Life Research Group. She warmly remembers his informal but engaging approach to teaching her how to accurately identify marine zooplankton specimens. Townsend attributes Brinton’s ongoing enthusiasm along with her many Scripps friends as the reason she stayed at Scripps for so long.
“We were like a small family. That’s what I’m going to miss the most, the relationships I’ve created with all the wonderful people here at Scripps,” says Townsend.
During her time at Scripps, Townsend enjoyed many career highlights including the transfer of more than 100,000 samples from two housing facilities to a new storage area in Vaughan Hall in 1999. She also began the process of digitizing collection samples, a project she started with her then-new boss Mark Ohman in 1992. Another high point was the 2000 completion of the CD-ROM, Euphausiids of the World Ocean, a reference guide for indentifying the order of Euphausiacea, which she created with Ohman, Brinton and coauthors M. D. Knight & A. L. Bridgeman.
As proud as she is of these milestones, Townsend says the quality of people, the reward of teaching younger generations, and the excellent resources made available to her are what she truly valued at Scripps.
“Being surrounded by such brilliant people everyday, I loved always learning something new,” she says.
And people at Scripps feel the same way about Annie and what she brought to the institution.
"Annie was a superb manager of the Scripps Pelagic Invertebrate Collection, helping make it the leading collection in the field,” said Ohman. “She was also an exemplary member of the Scripps community, epitomizing the qualities of deep professional expertise, scientific curiosity, and dedication. What's more, she's such a nice person.”
So what is Townsend most looking forward to in retirement? Getting her life organized and traveling.
“I want to have a girls’ weekend, spend time with my family, and take a trip to Costa Rica with my daughter,” she says.
After a long and fulfilling career, it’s fair to say she’s earned it!