Who I am
Living in Australia has allowed me to always live close to the sea and developed my passion and love for all sea creatures, but especially sharks and rays. When I became a marine ecologist, I kept my focus on researching and furthering the conservation of elasmobranchs which led me to do my PhD on current management approaches to stingrays, their effectiveness for protecting species and how to increase management of elasmobranchs in the future through targeted research and conservation initiatives for this highly threatened group.
While at university, I was fortunate enough to work extensively with large sharks through the SEQ Large Shark Tagging Program, where I helped determining urban impacts on sharks through stable isotope analysis and by following their migration and movement patterns via acoustic tagging along Australia’s east coast. I also worked in ecotourism, as a Marine Eco-ranger at Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort where I spent many days on the ocean watching whales, looking for dugongs and nightly-feeding wild dolphins.
In recent years as I finalised my PhD, I spent time as a consultant to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme on Taveuni Island, Fiji, where I conducted baseline coral reef surveys and held capacity-building workshops to support regional communities in their efforts to establish locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) that would ensure the long-term survival of their coastal reefs and livelihoods. From that project, five LMMAs were established which are still community run and managed today.
As well as being a marine biologist, I also have studied journalism and communications, which has translated into a passion for community engagement and science communication. I am especially keen to increase awareness about the declines in shark and ray populations, beyond the scientific communities.
Where I work
I am currently based on the Gold Coast, Australia where I am working as the Researcher for the Important Shark and Ray Areas (ISRA) project, being run by the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group with support from the IUCN Oceans Team, the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Area Task Force and the Save Our Seas Foundation. ISRAs are being developed to ensure that discrete parts of habitats that are critical to shark, ray and chimaera species can be identified and delineated in various location-based conservation and management initiatives across the world’s oceans. Shark, ray and chimaera populations have been declining consistently over the past 50 years and will continue to do so unless we can develop conservation efforts that are based on their unique characteristics and needs. Such efforts are essential to secure their survival, so that oceans are still healthy and full of sharks and rays in the future.
What I do
My role in the ISRA team as Researcher means I develop and research the information needed to create the ISRA criteria as well as reporting on the ISRA workshops, participating in the discussions and development of the criteria and ISRA Guidance, and writing the research paper to be presented at the 5th International Marine Protected Areas Congress in 2022. Working with ISRAs in this initial stage has been fascinating and engaging, and I’m looking forward to having established the criteria, so we can begin to move towards identifying and delineating the first ISRAs. This will be a huge step forward in furthering shark, ray and chimaera conservation and research.