“I’m from London, Ontario. I grew up around a lot of forests, trails, a lot of hiking. I lived near the Great Lakes. They’ve been through so much. I would love being around them, swimming in them. They seemed a bit empty in a way. But the ocean, compared to a lot of other things, always seemed a lot more mysterious to me; more full of life.

When I landed here in Miami about four years ago, I didn’t really have any experience with animal ecology, or marine biology, or anything like that. I had actually completed my masters in something pretty different- studying tree science.  I didn’t know anyone or have many connections. I had spoken to a researcher Neil, who is now my supervisor, about being a part of the volunteer team. Anything to get my foot in the door. I ended up applying for a year internship and flew down here. When I got here I remember Neil looked like he hadn’t expected me to actually show up, it was definitely somewhat of a surprise. On the third day here I got out to the marine lab. I tried to immerse myself in it; make myself useful. Even though I would just “go for it”, I was pretty intimidated. Intimidated by the reputation of the University of Miami, and by just being here in the States. You have to fend for yourself, get your own funding; make a place for yourself. More so than in Canada. It was very obvious early on I had to go big or go home.

Three years later I was invited to go to the Galapagos Islands. I couldn’t believe it. I got invited. The Galapagos is a dream for pretty much every scientist.  I knew I would be working with researchers I had admired for years. I didn’t have as much experience diving with sharks like them, but once again I wanted to just go for it; immerse myself in learning about this place. I made myself a part of the team. We were diving, fishing for sharks, collecting their blood samples, tagging them. It was a dream. I even ended up on Shark Week that year.”  


Shared by: Rachel Skubel

Transcribed by: Julia Michael

Valeria Alvarez