Founder & researcher, Project ORCA

And - Marine mammal scientist, Curtin University

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Do what you love, and you'll do it well.

Rebecca Wellard

What do you do?

I investigate numerous aspects of killer whales' biology, including their social structure, feeding ecology, but my main focus is on their acoustics and communication. This means I spend a lot of time out at sea and get to visit some wild and remote locations. There is no time for seasickness and the ocean can be unforgiving but working in some of the harshest elements is a part of my job that I love. I have had some incredible moments at sea with some amazing encounters with wildlife – it makes those rough days all worth it.

Why did you choose this field?

Growing up on the beaches of Australia meant I was always in or around the ocean. Whether I would spend the whole day exploring our local beach or sitting tight in Dad’s boat out on the bay - I found out an early age that the ocean was my happy place.

Since I was a kid I was intrigued with all creatures- my poor Mum would find lots of different animals tucked away in my bedroom, from snails to the neighbour’s cat! So, combine this love for animals and my love for the ocean, and it makes sense that I’ve been studying marine animals for the last 15 years now.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Anything is possible. And I think younger me knew this, but at times didn’t truly believe it. So many goals I have set myself and achieved, and I think at times, they seemed so far out of reach, that younger me truly never thought I could attain them. But hard work and dedication opens many doors. I think one of my biggest achievements to date is the work I am doing now. I was told as a teenager that marine biology was a dead-end career and it was almost impossible to study cetaceans and make a career out of it. I’m glad I never listened to any of them and followed my passion. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working with like-minded people whose souls are also ignited by the daily curiosity of science and wonder of nature. I have met some incredible people along this journey, whom inspire me and make me a better scientist, and I am so grateful to be able to work alongside them and learn from them.

Best advice for next generation?

Back yourself, keep your mind and heart open and don’t be afraid to constantly challenge yourself- that is how we grow. If you follow your heart, you can never go wrong. Do what you love, and you’ll do it well.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

Dr. Sylvia A Earle, “Her Deepness”, is one of my biggest heroes. She has helped break the glass ceiling for women in marine biology and science. Her lifelong commitment to marine life and habitats is commendable and this oceanographer, explorer, aquanaut and author is certainly someone I gain inspiration from.

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