2021 Speakers

Dr Sylvia Earle (Mission Blue/ Sylvia Earl Alliance, MBA honorary fellow)

Sylvia has pioneered research on marine ecosystems, with a special focus on exploration, conservation, and the development of new technologies for effectively accessing the deep sea and other remote environments. She has been celebrated by Time Magazine as the first woman to become chief scientist of the U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is President and Co-Chair of Mission Blue/ Sylvia Earl Alliance founded in collaboration with National Geographic to further global initiatives aimed at restoring health and productivity to the ocean. Earle has led more than a hundred expeditions, logged over 7,000 hours underwater, and has authored more than 190 scientific, technical, and popular publications. As well winning an Emmy award with the team for their Netflix documentary ‘Mission Blue’, and a TED Prize for her inspirational talk “How to Protect the Ocean”.

Melissa Cristina Marquez (PhD Candidate, Curtin University)

Melissa Cristina Márquez is a multi-hyphenate Latina in STEM.

Currently a PhD candidate at Curtin University, Márquez is interested in what environmental factors influence the composition and distribution of elasmobranchs using a variety of marine technology. She has become a household name thanks to her Scholastic books (the “Wild Survival” series) and TV presenter roles (BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and OceanX). Host of the ConCiencia Azul Spanish podcast, Melissa is passionate about making the scientific industry more diverse and inclusive, including making all of her educational content bilingual. Her social media platforms engage a community of over 40,000 through which Melissa encourages meaningful conversations about a variety of topics. Along with monthly articles for Forbes Science, her work has been featured in The Washington Post, USA Today, People Chica, and GQ; she is a Forbes “30 Under 30” honoree, and was listed as one of InStyle’s “BadAss Women for 2021.” Melissa is currently aboard the OceanXplorer in the Atlantic Ocean as a scientific advisor/natural history show presenter.

Sarah Fowler (Scientific Advisor to the Save our Seas Foundation & Trustee of the UK Shark Trust )

Sarah has a degree in zoology and marine zoology, an MSc in conservation, and has worked for 40 years in marine conservation for government departments, national and international NGOs and a biodiversity consultancy.

Sarah was appointed to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group when it was set up in 1991, is a founder of the European Elasmobranch Association and its UK member, the Shark Trust (and is a trustee of the latter).  She was appointed OBE in 2004 for her shark conservation work. 

Dr Helen Scales surrounded by tropical reef fish.

Dr. Helen Scales (Freelance Author & presenter, Cambridge University, Science Adviser – Sea Changers)

Dr Helen Scales is a marine biologist, writer and broadcaster. She is author of the Guardian bestseller Spirals in Time, New Scientist book of the year Eye of the Shoal, and the children’s book The Great Barrier Reef. She writes for National Geographic Magazine, the Guardian, and New Scientist, among others. She teaches at Cambridge University and is science advisor for the marine conservation charity Sea Changers. Helen divides her time between Cambridge, England, and the wild Atlantic coast of France. 

Dr Gill Rider profile shot

Dr Gill Rider (MBA President)

Gill has spent a varied career working in both the private and public sectors.  For the majority of her career, Gill has held operational and executive management responsibilities in Accenture.  She has worked in many countries and industry sectors.  Gill was a global executive committee member of Accenture from 1999 to 2006, before spending 5 years as Director General in the Cabinet Office as Head of the Civil Service Capability Group.  She is the previous past president of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and was, until last year, the Chair of the University of Southampton.  Gill is now enjoying a portfolio career across a variety of industries.   She was awarded a CB in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Professor David Sims head shot

Professor David Sims (The Marine Biological Association)

David Sims is an MBA Senior Research Fellow and Leader of the Sims Lab at the Marine Biological Association. He holds a joint academic appointment with the University of Southampton where he is Professor of Marine Ecology in the Ocean and Earth Science school at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS). David’s research focuses on the movement ecology and conservation of marine predators, notably the sharks, skates and rays. Research has investigated the patterns, mechanisms, causes and consequences of predator movement.

Daniel Collecting sample at the market

Mr. Daniel Fernando (Co-founder & director of the fisheries & policy programme at Blue Resources Trust, associate director at the Manta Trust, PhD candidate at Linnaeus University)

Daniel is a Sri Lankan marine biologist and the co-founder of Blue Resources Trust; a marine research and conservation organisation, where he leads the Fisheries and Policy Programme. Since 2013 he has been providing technical support for elasmobranch management policy at conventions such as CITES and CMS, thereby helping bridge the gap between science and policy and encouraging a shift toward sustainable fisheries. He has served as a ministerial advisor, is currently the Regional Co-Vice Chair of the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group for the Indian Ocean, an MCAF Fellow, and the Vice Chair to the Sessional Committee of the CMS Scientific Council.

Rory on a boat in the Puget Sound, USA, looking for Orcas

Rory Crawford (RSPB/BirdLife International Marine Programme)

Rory (pictured right) is a Marine and Freshwater Biology graduate from the University of Glasgow, and has worked for the RSPB/BirdLife on marine policy, on nature reserves and now with the fishing industry to try and prevent the accidental death of seabirds as ‘bycatch’. He is also a TV and radio presenter, passionate about making sure that green and blue space is accessible and welcoming for everyone.

a head shot of Jaida Elcock

Jaida Elcock (PhD Student MIT-WHOI Joint Program, co-founder of Minorities in Shark Sciences – MISS)

Jaida Elcock is a PhD student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Biological Oceanography. Her research is on shark movement ecology and habitat use. She is particularly interested in the movement ecology of migratory elasmobranchs, as this information is still unknown for many species. Jaida received her B.S. in Biology with University Honors from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. She has previously lived in landlocked states but has still been able to gain experience with marine animals through an internship at OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona. Jaida is a science communicator through social media and enjoys sharing fun facts about wildlife in a fun and engaging way. Jaida is also a co-founder of Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS) and is excited to continue helping women of color in the field of shark sciences.

Head shot of Dr Catherine Macdonald by Cliff Hawkins

Dr. Catherine Macdonald (Lecturer, Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Director, Field School)

Dr Catherine Macdonald is an interdisciplinary marine conservation biologist studying shark and ray biology, ecology, fisheries, and conservation. Her research interests also include marine ecosystems, human-wildlife conflict, and wildlife tourism. She is one of the co-founders and the Director of Field School, an interdisciplinary marine science training and education program, and a Lecturer in Marine Conservation Biology at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science. 

Alifa Bintha Haque (DPhil researcher, Nature-based Solutions Initiative, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford)

I am working at the crossroads of ecological, economic and social sustainability of elasmobranch fisheries in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh. We created a good baseline for Bangladesh’s elasmobranch catch, trade, and fishers’ perspective regarding their dependence and possible solutions to mitigate catch and trade. We are currently focusing on rhinopristiformes rays (sawfish, guitarfishes, wedgefishes) to identify evidence-based conservation measures through our research and outreach.

Dr Asha de Vos leaning on the side of a boat looking out to seaImage (c) Suada Azmy

Dr. Asha de Vos (Founder & Executive Director, Oceanswell, Sri Lanka)

Dr. Asha de Vos is an award-winning marine biologist and ocean educator from Sri Lanka. While she is well-known for her research on blue whales in Sri Lankan waters and efforts to protect them and the waters around her island home, she is also known for her love for whale poop that she says was what kickstarted her most important work. Asha thinks she has the best job in the world, and is absolutely passionate about everything she does but most of all, nurturing the next generation of diverse ocean heroes from across the globe. 

Jasmin Graham (President/CEO of Minorities in Shark Sciences, Mote Marine Laboratory)

Jasmin specializes in elasmobranch ecology and evolution. Her past research interests include smalltooth sawfish movement ecology and hammerhead shark phylogeny. She is a member of the American Elasmobranch Society and served on their Student Affairs Committee as the Early Career Representative. She is a member of the IUCN Shark Specialist group and serves on their Communications Team. She worked as an instructor for the Saturday at the Sea program through the Florida State University Office of STEM Teaching Activities. Jasmin has a passion for science education and making science more accessible for everyone. She is the project coordinator for the MarSci-LACE project, which is focused on researching and promoting best practices to recruit, support and retain minority students in marine science. She is excited to help open doors for more underrepresented minority students to join the exciting field of marine science. Today, Jasmin serves as president and CEO of Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS), which is an organisation seeking to promote diversity and inclusion in shark science and encourage women of color to push through barriers and contribute knowledge in marine science.

Alosha holding a marine species guide book

Alosha Samaraarachchi (YMB Member – The Marine Biological Association)

As well as an active YMB member, Alosha is also Ambassador in Marine Conservation Network – Santa Barbara California; Global Youth Shark Ambassador- El Porto Shark – Los Angeles International Youth Ambassador in School Broadcasting Network Melbourne – Victoria Australia.

“We need more young ocean heroes for next generation to protect our ocean That is why I am involved: to protect the ocean as a kid.”

James Releasing a Tiger shark after tagging

James Lea (CEO Save Our Seas Foundation, Evolutionary Ecology Group, University of Cambridge)

James is the chief executive officer of the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF), which funds marine conservation and education projects around the world to ensure a sustainable future for sharks and rays. Before SOSF, James had over a decade of experience in shark conservation and earned his PhD at the University of Plymouth studying shark behaviour and ecology. He is also part of the Evolutionary Ecology Lab at the University of Cambridge.

Cher Chow diving on a coral reef

Cher Chow (Centre for Biological Diversity, University of St Andrews)

Cher is a researcher at the University of St Andrews whose work focuses on what makes reef ecosystems function well, especially in relation to biodiversity. She’s born and raised in Hong Kong, where she witnessed first-hand the impacts of overfishing and pollution on coral habitats. Currently, Cher is also working in wider scale projects: BioTIME, a database of diversity data over time, and EuropaBON, a project on developing a biodiversity monitoring program for the European region population dynamics and exploring the efficacy of marine protected areas on vulnerable shark populations.

Paul Cox (The Shark Trust)

Paul Cox is Managing Director of the Shark Trust. Based in the UK, the Shark Trust works on international Shark Conservation issues, generating positive change for all sharks and rays. The Trust specialise in fisheries policy advocacy and science-based conservation action, engaging with a network of partners around the globe. Paul is a Marine Biologist with a specialism in Science Communication and Conservation Psychology. He believes that effective communication is one of the most powerful tools for conservation.

Dr Russell Arnott (Incredible Oceans / University of Bath)

Russell has presented at science and music festivals across the world aiming to instill his love for our ocean in as many people as possible. Currently a marine biology researcher at the University of Bath, Russell’s specialism is how physics affects biological systems. His research has taken him from the Southern Ocean with the British Antarctic Survey up to the Gulf of Bothnia in Northern Sweden.

Maya Plass (The Marine Biological Association)

Maya is Head of Communications at the MBA. with extensive experience in media communications and has published two books (RSPB Handbook of the Seashore, Seashore Watchers) and written numerous marine articles for a variety of national magazines. She has also presented on BBC nature programmes and recently received an Honorary Fellowship of the British Naturalist Association for her dedication to communicating marine science.  Maya established her own venture “Learn To Sea” in 2008 which led her to become an author, media broadcaster and an independent voice for our marine environment. Her media platform and passion for communicating the importance of life in the ocean and its vital role to society led her to become patron of marine charities. 

Marc Dando (Wild Nature Press/Princeton University Press) Patron of the Shark Trust)

Marc is a scientific illustrator (and publisher). He is most well known for illustrating sharks having been the illustrator on Sharks of the World, Field Guide to Sharks Rays and Chimaeras of Europe and the Mediterranean but has illustrated many other natural history books and illustrated for many NGOs around the world. He has had work exhibited at the Mall Galleries in London, Musée Océanographique de Monaco and Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, Florida but the majority of his works appears online or in books.

Lionel Yamb studying a small shark on a market

Lionel Yamb (Agricultural Research Institute for Development (IRAD))

“I’m an early-career marine ecologist working in Cameroon with the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development. I have a Master’s degree in marine science from the University of Douala. I’m gaining insights into Cameroon’s sharks and their conservation status and my current work focuses on research into, education about and conservation of elasmobranch species, including sharks and rays. I’m assessing the local conservation status of sharks with the aim to provide decision-makers with a baseline of shark and ray occurrence data in Cameroonian waters to help improve wildlife laws that can ensure the species’ long-term conservation and management. “

Releasing a mature tiger shark with a satellite transmitter

Matthew Smukall (President of Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation, Save Our Seas Foundation Partner)

“I grew up in Florida, but spent several years studying fisheries in Alaska. In 2015, I came to the Bimini Shark Lab to conduct my PhD dissertation on tiger sharks. In 2018, the legendary Dr Samuel ‘Doc’ Gruber asked me to take over for him which was a dream job. I now oversee the Bimini Shark Lab to ensure the facility endures and carries on Doc’s legacy for decades to come and provide future students the same opportunities I was afforded.”

David standing on a fallen palm tree

Dr David Jacoby (Lancaster University Lecturer & Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London Honorary Research Associate)

David is a lecturer in Zoology at Lancaster University and an Honorary Research Associate at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London. Obsessed by the oceans from a very young age, he is now a specialist in shark behaviour, animal tracking, animal social networks focusing on how the behaviour of marine organisms can be used to inform the management and conservation of marine biodiversity. David is a lead investigator on a number of collaborative projects tracking the spatial ecology, social interactions and environmental drivers of shark behaviour in remote protected and unprotected marine ecosystems from the British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago) and Palmyra Atoll (Central Pacific) to the Canary Islands. Developing new approaches for analysing tracking data, his research has a strong focus on assessing the impact of illegal fishing activity on predator population dynamics and exploring the efficacy of marine protected areas on vulnerable shark populations.

Alison Towner (PhD Candidate, Rhodes University, Dyer Island Conservation Trust & Marine Dynamics Shark Scientist)

Alison Towner has been fascinated with the great white shark since young and her studies and diving experience led her to Marine Dynamics and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust in 2007. As the leading shark scientist, with a BSc (Honours) in Marine biology from UK’S Bangor university, and with the extensive observational data she has collected in Gansbaai on white sharks, she completed her Masters through the University of Cape Town. Alison has co-authored publications on white shark regional population dynamics, wound healing, hunting behaviour, movements and tagging. Alison continues with her PhD studies on white sharks with a focus on tracking and telemetry. Alison’s philosophy is that science can save sharks and is committed to research that helps us better understand white sharks and in turn better protect them.

Dr Lucy Hawkes (Senior Lecturer in Ecology University of Exeter)

Dr Lucy Hawkes is a physiological ecologist at the University of Exeter and a National Geographic Explorer. During her PhD she was the first person to track sea turtles from populations in North Carolina, USA, and the Cape Verde Islands. She has written over 60 scientific articles to date, which have been cited over 4000 times. Her work focuses on the costs and drivers of migration in animals (vertebrates and invertebrates) using emergent technologists such as satellite telemetry, animal-borne cameras, remote sensing and respirometry to understand amazing migratory performances by wild animals.

Rehan snorkelling

Rehan Somaweera (Year 5 student at Woodland Primary School in Perth, Australia)

Rehan is a budding explorer who has fallen in love with the ocean since 3 years old piggy-backing his dad while snorkelling. His passion for exploring the natural world around him has led to a video series ‘Backyard Creatures’ he hosts with his younger brother Nehan. Rehan currently studies in Year 5 at Woodland Primary School in Perth, Australia and wants to become a marine biologists (among many other things)

Tom Horton (University of Exeter)

I am PhD student in the Hawkes/Witt lab at the University of Exeter. For the past seven years I have been studying Atlantic bluefin tuna, principally by using biologging tags to study their movements and behaviour over periods of up to a year. 

Dr Dave Ebert (Program Director, Pacific Shark Research Center / Moss Landing Marine Laboratories)

Dave has devoted his life to studying the ocean’s most elusive, dangerous and yet fascinating predator – the shark! His adventurous search for Lost Sharks has taken him from his modest hometown in California to the Emperor’s glorious Palace in Tokyo, the dazzling Skeleton Coast of Namibia, and the vibrant streets of Cape Town. His global explorations have led to the discovery of over 50 new shark species. Author of 30 books, including the “Sharks of the World”, Dave holds numerous positions including President of the American Elasmobranch Society, Director of the Pacific Shark Research Center, Scientific Advisor to the United Nations, Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences and South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, and the IUCN Shark Specialist Group. He is founder of the Lost Sharks project and co-host of the podcast Beyond Jaws!

Beccy observing spiny seahorse during a survey

Beccy MacDonald-Lofts (Volunteer Education Co-ordinator and Trustee of The Seahorse Trust)

Beccy is a freelance marine conservation and education specialist working with many different charities across the UK on a range of projects from those developing marine protection strategies to connecting people and their environment. Beccy has been working with The Seahorse Trust for over a decade, starting as a volunteer survey diver.

Sarah looks through a tank at a squid

Sarah McAnulty, Ph.D. (Executive Director of Skype a Scientist, UConn)

Dr. Sarah McAnulty is a squid biologist and science communicator. She received her Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology working on Hawaiian bobtail squid symbiosis in 2019. She is currently the executive director of Skype a Scientist, a non-profit that connects over 10,000 classrooms to scientists every year. Dr. McAnulty is a prolific science communicator, with an active presence on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Tiktok. She’s been featured by Nature, Forbes, NPR Shortwave, along with many others, for her work.

Greg Nowell (Founder of Sharklab-Malta, Member of the European Elasmobranch Society)

I am the founder of Sharklab-Malta and chair a team of amazing volunteers. As a collective team we manage, organise and run the research, educational and awareness activities as well as all of the other elements of work undertaken here in Malta. The work is highly regarded within the Maltese Islands as well as across many parts of the world.

Freya Womersley

(MBA, University of Southampton, Global Shark Movement Project)

“I am a second year PhD researcher working on broad scale shark movement, ecology and conservation. My research focusses on exploring where sharks spend their time and determining what factors may influence their distributions. I am interested in quantifying which human threats they may be exposed to within the areas they occupy and what can be done to better protect declining populations. ”     

Head shot of John Spicer smiling

Professor John Spicer (University of Plymouth)

Professor John Spicer is a marine zoologist at Plymouth University’s Marine Institute. His research interests focus on the innermost workings of marine organisms in a quest to understand how they work and evolve in the wild, and how they adapt to climate change. John is an enthusiastic advocate of marine biology and an eminent scientist renowned for his expertise in ocean acidification and hypoxia, he has contributed a substantial wealth of knowledge to the field over three decades. 

Jack Sewell (The Marine Biological Association)

Jack has worked in science communication & outreach at the Marine Biological Association for more than 18 years. As the MBA’s Senior Science Interpreter he is passionate about sharing the wonders of marine science with the world and has a particular soft spot for crabs! Jack also works as a freelance artist, illustrator and writer.  

Richard Barnden (Underwater Photographer, Unique Ocean Expeditions)

Richard has spent the last 20 years diving in the Pacific, especially Palau. This is where he first witnessed a spawning aggregation. This pretty much changed his life, soon becoming fascinated with understanding their formulas and predictability. He would then spend the next fifteen years photographing them in an effort to further understand them.

Richard has had his worked published in most international dive magazines and worked with numerous Universities and production companies .He is currently working on a paper on Twin spot snapper spawning (Lutjanus bohar) in Palau

In 2019 one of Richard’s memorable expeditions was with Greenpeace in South Africa exploring Mount Vema, one of the planet’s few dive-able sea mount’s.

That year in an attempt to understand more about grouper reproduction Richard put together a team of rebreather divers to witness the same species of grouper reproducing as in Palau. It was here that he photographed a parrotfish predated on at night that won him underwater photographer of the year. In 2020 Richard set up Unique Ocean Expeditions bringing photographers and ocean adventures to witness some of these natural underwater events.


Dr Isla Hodgson ( University of Stirling & Save Our Seas Foundation education ambassador)

Dr Isla Hodgson has spent her life exploring and working in UK seas, particularly the vibrant marine ecosystems of Scotland’s west coast. In 2020 she joined the Save Our Seas team as education ambassador, and currently produces and hosts their podcast, The Whole Tooth, a show that aims to answer audience questions about sharks, rays and the oceans with marine experts from across the world. She is also a keen cold-water scuba diver and trained SeaSearch observer, conducting underwater surveys around the UK coastlines, and for the last three years has worked as a wildlife guide with Basking Shark Scotland, an operation which raises awareness and promotes the conservation of the world’s second largest shark species through responsible tourism and data collection during the basking shark season in the Sea of the Hebrides.

Isla has a BSc (honours) and Msc in marine science from the University of Aberdeen, and in 2018 completed her PhD on human-wildlife conflict. She now specialises in environmental governance and conservation conflict management, and has worked as an advisor to Scottish and UK governments, WWF, the Luc Hoffman Institute and IUCN. She now divides her time between research, science communication and diving.

Not yet a member of the MBA?

You don’t need to be a member to take part in the summit, but we would love you to consider joining! Becoming part of the marine biological community and support our mission to understand and protect life in our ocean.