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CURRENT VOLUNTEERS

ELLA DOBSON

From: London, UK

Education/Background:

Currently finishing up my undergraduate degree in environmental studies and studio art at Dartmouth College, NH

Reasons for coming:

Unlike most volunteers that come through shark lab, I have not always wanted to be a marine biologist. I had a brief stint as a 14 year old obsessing over dolphins and sharks but quickly returned to the dream of becoming a vet. After attending vet school for one year, I realised it was not for me, but felt a little lost as to what to do or study. On my year off I volunteered at a Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Centre in Utila, Honduras and 6 very short weeks later I was hooked and was becoming more and more fascinated by what existed in our oceans.

As an environmental studies major at an inland university, I felt like I was lacking the resources to study and gain field experience in marine studies so felt like my off term from college was a great opportunity to pursue my interests in marine biology, specifically on sharks. I hope one day to pursue a masters and, maybe, a PhD in marine biology or conservation and that my experience here at shark lab can act to help me figure out what area I would like to specialise in. Finally, I can’t wait to go back and educate those around me about what I learn from my 2 months in Bimini. 

KALI BUCHHOLZ

From: Melbourne, Australia

 

Education/Background:

Graduated from Monash University in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science (Honours). I majored in Zoology/Ecology and Conservation Biology, and completed my honours on behavioural repeatability in the delicate skink. 


Reasons for coming:

I grew up in Western Australia and spent a lot of time in and around the ocean. One of my earliest career ambitions was to become a marine biologist. I changed my mind many times along the way, as kids do, but my mind was made up when I learnt to SCUBA dive while volunteering with Marine Conservation Cambodia. Diving gave me a whole new appreciation for the ocean and I decided I wanted to pursue a career in marine conservation. Unfortunately, this realisation came after beginning my studies and although I was doing a science degree, my chosen university had limited opportunities in the marine field. This is when I learnt about the Sharklab.

I've long had a fascination with sharks, the thrill of swimming alongside such a beautiful and powerful animal will never get old, and I developed the seemingly impossible dream of a career in shark conservation. I knew I would need more experience to be competitive in the marine field. Hours spent trawling the internet led me to the SharkLab and the unbelievable opportunity it presented to gain first-hand experience of my dream job. It has been many years in the making, but I am so happy and excited to finally be here!

EMILY MARSHALL

From: Canada

 

Education/background:

I recently graduated with a Marine and Freshwater biology degree at the University of Guelph in Canada. For my undergraduate thesis I studied fish diversity in streams of Southern Ontario and how diversity shifted with anthropogenic land use changes.

 

Reasons for coming:

I remember learning what a shark looked like from a book that I had when I was 4. I absolutely loved that book and even though I couldn’t read yet, I would spend hours staring at all the pictures. To me the animals in those pictures seemed powerful and impressive, and I remember being in awe of how graceful they looked, even with their slightly scary teeth. As I grew older, I obsessively watched any nature documentary series in the hopes of seeing sharks and I most looked forward to the segments which focused on the ocean in general. I always felt very at home in or near any body of water and that feeling has never gone away. I did anything I could to be in the water, including working as a lifeguard and sailing. Fast forward to now and the obsession that was established when I was very small has definitely not disappeared. I love all aquatic creatures but have always maintained a soft spot for sharks, despite never having had the opportunity to work with them. As a result, this opportunity is extremely special to me and I am so happy that I will finally get to work with the creatures that have dominated my daydreams for so many years. I hope to pursue a Masters degree in the near future and focus on marine ecology and conservation. 

From: San Francisco, California

 

Education/Background: I graduated from Tufts University in May 2019 with degrees in environmental science and environmental geology.


Reasons for coming: Growing up in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, I fell in love with the outdoors at an early age.

As an avid hiker and backpacker, I always thought I would pursue a terrestrial aspect of environmental science. I took an oceanography course in college, however, and knew on the first day of class that I wanted to pursue a career in marine science. I was able to incorporate marine research into my degree by studying abroad in Zanzibar, Tanzania. There, I conducted a holistic health assessment of a coral reef and measured the sediment flux on the coral. It was a great learning opportunity, exciting to be in charge of my own research, and incredibly rewarding.

The following summer, I had an amazing time working as a research intern at a marine veterinary hospital in California, The Marine Mammal Center, assisting primarily with necropsies. Although I’m lucky to have had multiple marine research experiences, sharks and rays are completely new to me, which is something that really attracted me to the lab. I’m beyond thrilled by this opportunity to expand my marine knowledge and to narrow down what aspect of marine science I want to pursue in a graduate program.

I’m really eager to learn new research methods and to work alongside professionals in the field. Most importantly, I can’t wait to share with others what I’ve learned during my time at the lab.

KAT GRELLMAN

From: Glastonbury, Connecticut

 

Education/Background:

Working towards a degree in Marine Biology from James Cook University.


Reasons for coming:

From a young age, an incredible fascination with outer space and our oceans has brewed inside of me: I’ve

always been obsessed with the unknown. Space seemed so far away and difficult to study, and, although I still love a good space article, my interest faded; however, I never lost interest in big blue. How was it that over 95% of our oceans remain unexplored?

There seemed to be an incredible amount of opportunity and so many untold stories hidden away, and so began my journey with our oceans. Along the way, my parents did an incredible job fostering my curiosity and exposed me to as much of the marine

environment as possible, whether it be lobstering up in Maine or snorkelling down in Mexico. This allowed me to become passionate in the underwater world and to follow a dream through my studies.

Over the last few years I have been afforded an incredible opportunity to study marine biology in Australia. James Cook University packs a powerful arsenal of professors whom stand as leaders in prominent fields and allowed me exposure to many of

them, including working with Colin Simpfendorfer on the Global FinPrint Project, an initiative to draw a baseline population number for an array of reef-associated shark and ray species.

The shark lab will hopefully act as a pit stop for me as I transition from studies to the real world, allowing me to apply and tweak the skills I’ve learned, as well as learn new skills from the incredibly knowledgeable PhD students and staff currently carrying out research, and further network with visiting scientists and film crews. I plan on doing big things and volunteering at the shark lab seems like right first step in the long journey that’s ahead.

CHRIS LOCKWOOD
 

MIKAELA ARENA
 

From: Delray Beach, Florida

 

Education/Background:

Graduated from Florida Atlantic University in Spring 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Hoping to pursue a masters or PhD in the near future. 


Reasons for coming:

As a toddler living in Florida, swimming and walking were skills I learned simultaneously.  I spent most days of my early life underwater. However, it wasn’t until I moved back to Florida for my undergraduate studies that I was able to reconnect with the ocean and my passion for the animals that lie beneath. 

At Florida Atlantic University I was fortunate enough to get involved in sea turtle research through the FAU Marine Laboratory. Here I was able to take my love for science to the next level, gaining experience in both field and laboratory settings. My growing passion for wildlife and conservation continued to grow throughout my undergraduate studies and I seized every opportunity I could to further my knowledge. One of those opportunities included studying in Galápagos, Ecuador where I was lucky enough to assist multiple scientists in their research projects on the islands. 

As the end to my undergraduate studies approached, the more certain I was that I wanted a career in research and to continue my studies at the graduate level. I became motivated to seek out new opportunities and advance my current skills before committing to a graduate program. After visiting Bimini as a tourist, I fell in love with the island and discovered BBFS. As a lover of all things science and sharks, I wanted nothing more than to become an intern at SharkLab in order to gain even more experience that will help to shape my future as a scientist. 

STARR SAMS

From: Weymouth, Dorset, UK

 
Education/Background: Graduated with a BSc in Marine Vertebrate Zoology from Bangor University in July 2019.

Reason for coming: 

I have always lived by the sea and grew up spending summers on the beach, so have had a fascination for the ocean from a young age.  In addition to this, I always enjoyed science, creating my own little experiments whenever possible, which ranged anywhere between finding bugs in my garden to playing with magnets at school. When I first went SCUBA diving in the Canary Islands at 10 years old, the underwater world amazed me and this first experience confirmed to me that I wanted to pursue a career in Marine Science. As a competitive swimmer I became very comfortable in the water, spending almost all my time outside of education training in the pool. I also continued SCUBA diving and during my early teens I went from swim training to swim teaching, both voluntarily and then later as a part-time job alongside my studies. I chose my university course based on my interest in marine megafauna, in particular, sharks, and this enabled me to further my knowledge significantly. For my Final Year Dissertation I analysed how different characteristics can influence extinction risk in elasmobranchs, which confirmed that I definitely wanted to pursue further study within this field. Despite the huge amount I learnt during my degree, I still felt I was lacking in practical field experience, particularly with sharks, therefore I am extremely appreciative to have this opportunity. Coming to the Sharklab will help me gain valuable research experience, as well as provide me with an opportunity to learn exactly what it’s like to work as a shark scientist. In the future I hope to combine my passions for teaching and sharks to help educate the public and change perceptions about these incredible animals.

BEN REILLY

From: Worthing, West Sussex, UK

 

Education/background:

Dive Master/Boat Skipper

Seychelles Marine Conservation Expedition Leader - GVI

Marine Conservation Expedition Volunteer - Global Vision International Mexico

B.Ed Hons Movement Studies 

 

Reasons for coming:

After taking time out from a teaching career I opted to reassess life by volunteering on a Marine Conservation Expedition in Mexico in 2003. Instantly falling in love with the underwater world, its treasures and in particular those hidden treasures - sharks. Since that day I have worked to create a life that affords me free time to pursue this passion in the hope that my nieces and nephews may also one day be blessed to dive and encounter these beautiful elusive and enigmatic creatures. 

 

This is my time to give back in the hope that the decline in shark numbers can be halted through education and a better understanding of these animals. 

 

I hope that my broad skillset ranging from tree surgery to Dive master and my previous experience of Expedition life can benefit the team here at the Sharklab, whilst, personally furthering my scientific knowledge and having an experience of a lifetime! 

BEN HANLAN

From: Portsmouth, UK

 
Education/Background:

Biological Sciences (Zoology) at Cardiff University


Reason for coming:

Plants and animals have always been fascinating to me. From I young age I was amazed at the complicated patterns and shapes formed by nature which then not only look beautiful to us but serve a very specific function. 
Then after watching numerous TV documentaries I became aware of the complex, intelligent behaviours of every animal from the smallest gnat to the blue whale.

Unsurprisingly then, I now study Biological Sciences (Zoology) at Cardiff University with a Placement Training Year. With a love of the ocean, I thought Bimini would be an incredible setting to learn about how research projects are carried out in the field, conducted by established PIs whilst gaining a unique insight into elasmobranchs , some of the most highly specialized predators to have swam planet Earth.

ABI BELLAMY

From: Winchester, England

 
Education/Background:

BSc (Hons) Marine Biology with Biodiversity and Conservation, plus placement year at Sea Life London Aquarium- Anglia Ruskin University, 2017

MSc Tropical Marine Biology- University of Essex, 2019



Reason for coming: 

For as long I can remember I’ve always loved the sea, visiting family on the South Coast of England regularly and playing in the sea, as well as family holidays where I was barely out the water! My parents are both keen SCUBA divers, and when my dad taught me to dive in 2010 I was hooked. During my undergrad I spent two weeks in Egypt on a diving research trip where I was taught basic scientific diving, and during one such dive looked up almost face to face with a black tip reef shark, I was so ecstatic! From September 2015-2016 I undertook a placement year at Sea Life London Aquarium where I gained vast knowledge in the upkeep of captive aquatic animals and their life support systems, among which were over 20 sharks of various species whom I ended up knowing all by name. After my BSc I went on to complete my masters, during which I spent two months in Indonesia undertaking my research data collection through SCUBA diving.

I realised I had a real interest in sharks after my placement year, but as my masters course didn't contain any shark related subjects I knew I'd have to look into volunteering to learn more about these magnificent creatures. I stumbled upon Bimini shark lab one day when searching for shark internships, and am so happy I’ve been given the opportunity to volunteer here to gain an insight into the real life workings of a research facility, whilst also gaining extensive experience working with one of the world’s most fascinating animals!

ELAINE ZHANG

From: Shanghai, China 

 
Education/Background: Graduated from the University of California, Davis in June 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences. 

Reason for coming: 

Moving 11 times in my life has given me the opportunity to experience a wide range of environments - from the forested wetlands of Connecticut to the rapid urbanization of Shanghai. However, one thing that remained constant is my deep interest and appreciation in the flora and fauna that reside in each location. Unlike most of the other volunteers at the Sharklab, my focus wasn’t on marine biology and conservation but I have always had an interest in it. My first real experience in animal science was studying equine welfare at the University of Rzeszow during my study abroad program in Poland. That entire experience ultimately led me down a career path change towards animal welfare. Later on, during my senior year of college, I decided to explore options in terrestrial and marine animal research. That is when I started working at the Department of Wildlife, Fish, & Conservation in elasmobranch research coding scientific literature for a shark meta-analysis. My focus was on Kitefin and Rough sharks and how the rare captures of these species show the need for immediate action to be taken for conservation. This is where scientific research leads to awareness for these misunderstood animals which is something I want to be a part of. During my gap year before attending a graduate institution, I want to gain more hands-on research and continue to explore my passion for elasmobranch conservation. That’s why I hope that the Bimini Sharklab will provide a firm foundation for shaping my future career because it encompasses fieldwork and data collection while focusing on the link between science, education, and conservation.