15th May 2017 – Melissa Marquez, T he Fins United Initiative

Melissa MarquezA proud #LatinainSTEM, Melissa C. Marquez is a marine biologist who focuses on shark habitat use and movements. She recently completed a Master of Science degree looking into habitat use, preference and defining key Chondrichthyan (shark, skate, ray, and chimaera) life history stages. Melissa has also been on a handful of professional discussion panels and spoken at numerous conferences to discuss her research and outreach.
 
The author of three kid books, Marquez is also a dedicated science communicator who focuses on diverse Chondrichthyan education and on the media coverage of sharks. She is the founder of The Fins United Initiative (www.finsunited.co.nz) and has presented to over 10,000 kids, students, and adults about Chondrichthyan biology, ecology, and conservation since its inception. 
 
Originally hailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico, she has moved around the world with her family and to pursue her studies. She is currently living in Wellington, New Zealand and looking worldwide for a PhD opportunity that allows her to understand shark migratory behaviour (why sharks are where they are). You can learn more about her research and qualifications on her website (melissacristinamarquez.weebly.com). 

12th December 2016 – Simon Gingins, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

DCIM100GOPROI was born and raised in Switzerland, a landlocked country mostly covered by the Alps, where I love to spend my free time hiking, snowboarding, mountain biking and climbing. For work, however, I prefer travelling to remote tropical islands to study the behaviour or coral reef fishes. I started my studies in biology at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), where I did a master thesis on the behaviour of the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus. Cleaners pick parasites off the body of other reef fishes, called “clients”, and have a very elaborate behaviour in order to deal with their incredibly high number of daily cooperative interactions (up to 2000). This was an amazing experience, and I got the chance to keep doing research on cleaners during my PhD at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland). For this project, I spent extended periods of time in beautiful locations such as the Egyptian shores of the Red Sea, the island of Moorea in French Polynesia and Lizard Island, on the great Barrier Reef in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, it is not because marine biologists go to paradisiac locations for work that the job is easy. Fieldwork is hard, physically demanding, and often frustrating, but being rewarded with a sunset over the ocean at the end of the day makes everything much, much simpler.

Over the past years I also got interested in collective behaviour, and I had the idea to test some of the emerging questions in this field with group-living damselfishes. Just after completing my PhD, I obtained a fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation for this project, which I am currently working on in the Department of Collective Behaviour, at the Max Planck Institute in Konstanz (Germany). You will get to hear more about this endeavour since I will be tweeting for @biotweeps live from Eliat, Israel, the field site where I collect data for this project.

Through all these travels I also developed a strong interest in photography. With my background, unsurprisingly, my favourite place to take photographs is underwater, on the reef. One of the reasons why I love this environment so much is that you can get very close to the animals, much closer than you could on land, which also makes great opportunities for animal photography. But I don’t limit myself to underwater photography, I also enjoy capturing the beauty of mountains and other natural landscapes. You can see a collection of my pictures on my website www.simongingins.com, and interact directly with me on twitter @SimonGingins.

Looking forward to interacting with you all on @biotweeps!

27th June 2016 – Centre for Marine Futures, University of Western Australia

Centre for Marine Futures.pngBIG PICTURE THINKING

Our vision is global, with partnerships and field programmes in most ocean basins either side of the Equator. Past and current sampling sites include: Western Australia, Palau, New Caledonia, the Chagos Archipelago, Tonga, French Polynesia, the Savage Islands (Ilhas Selvagens), The Philippines, and the Gulf of Oman.

SCIENCE THAT MATTERS

Our goal is to make a difference
Our research boasts high academic and real-life impact. It is used to directly inform and influence both policy and management actions. We are a member group of the Ocean Science Council of Australia (OSCA), an independent consortium of leading Australian experts concerned with advancing marine conservation.

RESEARCH

Our research focuses on marine ecological questions relevant to conservation and largely explores the influence of human activities on marine ecosystems.

Key questions our research explores include:
– How do pelagic sharks and fishes respond to the establishment of large marine reserves?
– What roles do apex predators play in tropical marine ecosystems?
– How is climate variability manifested in fish growth and what does this mean for warming oceans?
– How are sharks and fishes distributed on biogeographical scales and in relation to habitat?
– What are the socioeconomic drivers of illegal fishing?

These questions are addressed using a range of techniques included BRUVS, telemetry, biomarkers and predictive modelling.

SCIENTISTS

Dr Phil Bouchet
Postdoctoral fellow
I am a jack of several trades – marine mammalogist by training, converted into shark/fish ecologist as a doctoral student. I have a keen interest in spatial ecology and statistical modelling as they relate to wildlife conservation problems. Recently I developed abundance models for a number of cetacean species (humpback whales, bottlenose and snubfin dolphins) and distribution models for large pelagic fish (tunas and mackerels) around Western Australia.
My PhD research concentrated on ‘hotspots’ of mobile marine predators, and how these aligned with prominent physical features of the ocean floor such as seamounts, submarine canyons, or offshore shoals and banks. This involved coordinating or partaking in field expeditions to Shark Bay, the Timor Sea and the Perth canyon, where I used a new generation of midwater baited underwater video cameras to film endangered oceanic sharks in deep-water environments.
Dr Shanta Barley
Postdoctoral fellow
Reef sharks are being removed from coral reefs globally yet we do not understand how this affects these hotspots of biodiversity. Where sharks are absent, prey may change in terms of abundance, size, behaviour, diet, condition and growth rate, which could have severe knock-on effects on the rest of the ecosystem.
I explore these issues using stereo underwater video systems, stable isotopes and a range of other techniques.
David Tickler
PhD student
I am investigating how spatial ecology and population genetics impact the exposure and vulnerability of sharks to illegal fishing on Indian Ocean reefs, and how social, economic and legal factors affect the scale and range of the fishing effort in these locations. The study will use a combination of ecological tools (fine- and broad-scale movement tracking and population genetics), fisheries data collection at landing sites, and interviews with fishers and other actors to collect data on both the ecology of reef shark species and the fisheries that target them.
The spatial ecology and genetic studies will help understand the role of large MPAs such as Chagos in providing a refuge to reef shark species, and its wider role for these species in the Indian Ocean based on the connectivity (or lack thereof) between sub-populations. The study of illegal fishing aims to help quantify the magnitude of illegal fishing in a large oceanic MPA, identify the key drivers of this activity, and suggest points of engagement with regional stakeholders that will reduce illegal fishing effort.
Charlotte Birkmanis
PhD student
I am a marine biologist with a special interest in shark behaviour and conservation. My research in shark ecology, behaviour and genetics focuses on the role of sharks as regulators of tropical and temperate ecosystems across the Indian Ocean.
This research involves studying a variety of shark species and their prey to discover the implications of reduced shark populations in our oceans, and to determine the relative health of sharks in the Indian Ocean. I attained a Bachelor of Science with distinction in ecology and a Bachelor of Arts in mandarin from Queensland University of Technology. Following on from this, my research on shark and ray biomechanics earned me a Bachelor of Science (Honours I) degree from the University of Queensland. My research will highlight the importance of sharks in our oceans.
Marjorie Fernandes
PhD student
Pelagic (open-water) marine ecosystems are the largest marine environment on Earth. A key ecological component of pelagic systems are their sharks and fishes. My research will explore spatial ecology and behaviour of sharks and fishes using observations from two large marine protected areas (MPAs), the Chagos Marine Reserve and the Palau Shark Sanctuary.
I will be looking at spatial structure and behaviour patterns relating to environmental and habitat characteristics, regarding three pelagic ecosystems key components: (1) juveniles fishes; (2) forage species, and (3) top predators. I will use an innovative, non-destructive and fishery-independent approach, remote underwater camera system to sample pelagic fish and shark. By improving our understanding of how pelagic species use the environment, it will also contribute to improved MPA design.

21st March 2016 – Pieter Torrez

Pieter Torrez_blogPieter Torrez is a marine biologist from Belgium. He received his bachelor in general biology from the University of Ghent. Thereafter he continued his scientific career by studying an international master in marine biodiversity and conservation, by following courses at the University of Ghent and GMIT, Ireland. His thesis topic was about a certified shrimp fishery in Suriname, South America. Pieter tweets about marine science and he has a keen interest in (interactive) scientific visualization. He is the founder of Scigrades (Scientific Graphic Design), providing the scientific community with great visuals to improve science communication. Pieter regularly writes articles for different kinds of science communication platforms and likes to exchange ideas on how we can involve the general public more into scientific research.

October 19th 2014 – Lali DeRosier; CurlyHairMafia.com, ConvergentEd.com

Lali_DeRosierLali has been a teacher and scientist all her life. Her first experiments were meticulously labeled materials tests on the snow-encrusted window ledge of her bedroom. School friends have jokingly referred to her Bus Ride Lecture Series, where she would expound on everything from germ theory to adaptive social behavior. Raised by science-minded parents, Lali was encouraged to read, investigate, and question everything. Childhood trips to aquariums and museums went hand-in-hand with poring over grisly pictures in medical texts on lazy afternoons and marathons of Cousteau documentaries.

Lali studied Oceanic and Atmospheric Science at a science magnet school in the southeast where phenomenal high school teachers cultivated her love of school and learning. She was afforded an opportunity to work in a planktonology lab as part of a work-study program, and was immersed in marine science and culture as part of the daily curriculum. Drawn always to science, Lali realized that her place was not in a research lab, but rather in the classroom, where she could cultivate a love of science in the next generation of learners.

Lali went on to earn degrees in Biological Sciences at a New England liberal arts school, and Science Education at a Florida university. Currently at an independent school in Florida, she is teaches biological sciences and is developing a science writing curriculum for middle and high school. Believing that science communication is the key to improving science literacy among both students and the general public, Lali is eager to explore how online communication can enhance science education. You can find her other writing at Life in the Nerdlet Estuary.