What do you do?
My research aims to expand our current understanding of the manta ray populations in Seychelles so that we are better able to conserve these vulnerable animals long into the future. I use photographs of the black spots on the bellies of the mantas like fingerprints to count how many individuals are in the population, and then I use different types of tags to track the movements of the mantas to see where they go, and what locations are most important for us to protect.
Why did you choose this field?
Growing up in Western Australia, my favourite part of every year was my family’s annual trip to the Ningaloo Reef. We would spend day after day snorkelling over beautiful corals and exploring the wonderful coastline, and it was there that I realised I wanted to work in marine conservation.
I discovered my passion for sharks and rays (collectively called elasmobranchs) when I was given the opportunity to research Port Jackson shark vision in 2012. For a whole year, I studied how these sharks ‘see’ the environment around them and what that means for their behaviour. I loved every second of it! Almost everything I’ve done, talked about, read, and watched since then has involved elasmobranch research and conservation, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sharks and rays are just incredible.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
Younger-Lauren would not believe that her excitement and passion about science, marine conservation, and elasmobranchs would take her to South Africa for two years to study white sharks, to Seychelles to lead her own research project on manta rays, and to Brazil to present her work in front of the world’s leading experts in elasmobranch research.
Why do you love working in STEM?
Every single day I get to learn something new, surrounded by people who are equally as passionate about their work as I am. I wake up looking forward to contributing new and important information to manta conservation efforts in Seychelles, and to hearing of incredible new discoveries that are being made around the world each day.
Best advice for next generation?
Work hard and to back yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to, so grab opportunities with both hands and don’t be afraid to be excited about your passions.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
I am a marine biologist who gets sea sick! No matter how long I spend on boats, I always have to take the necessary precautions to make sure that I don’t get sick and I can get my field work done.