I 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!
BIG 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.
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.
Pieter 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.
Lali 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.