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Sammy 

andrzejaczek

PhD candidate, University of Western Australia & Australian Institute of Marine Science

 

And - Shark scientist

Stick to your guns, work hard and follow your dreams.

What do you do?

"[I] investigate why sharks move the way they do."

My project explores the drivers of movements in a range of different shark species. I put tags on sharks to record their movements, and also the environments that they are swimming through. This information can help us understand how sharks may interact with different fishing gears, how energy flows through the ecosystem, and how movements may change with future environmental change. 

This means that 20% of the time I’m out on the water, directly working with sharks, and the other 80% of the time I’m in the office, processing and analysing the data, and writing up the results. 

Why did you choose this field?

"I can't remember ever not wanting to be a marine scientist."

I grew up on the coast in Western Australia and have always loved the ocean. I surfed, snorkelled and swam from early primary school and most of my family holidays were beach related, and I guess altogether this fuelled my drive to pursue a career in marine science. I always wanted to learn more, and early on documentaries helped to curb my curiosity.

 

David Attenborough was an early hero, and I was completely fascinated by Shark Week (despite it being completely dramatized). In 2006 the documentary Sharkwater was released, and after watching it, I had a strong drive to do anything I could to help sharks.  

Another factor that contributed to this choice of career path was that I cannot imagine ever pursuing a career in a field I wasn’t interested in. I was never in it for the money, and instead am so lucky that I get do what I love every single day. 

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

"Last year I was called up by the BBC to help them for Blue Planet II."

There are countless achievements, particularly from the last couple of years, that I don’t think my younger self would believe. One stands out from the rest though. I was in Shark Bay with a BBC producer and a team of cameramen, tagging a tiger shark that would later appear on Blue Planet II. It was completely unreal, and even afterwards I couldn’t believe it had happened until I actually saw myself on the behind the scenes video.  

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love that every day is different. I love that we are working on the frontier of understanding, and that new technologies are going to continue to produce new revelations about the natural world. I love that we are making a difference. Everyday I look forward to working with people who have a similar passion for the marine world, and from whom I learn so much.

Best advice for the next generation

Stick to your guns, work hard, and follow your dreams. My high school careers councillor told me that I would not end up working with sharks and tried to convince me to pursue a different career path.

Fun fact

I also have a black belt in karate, and have helped train adults just starting out in karate. I started when I was 7 years old and both karate and muay thai have really helped to develop my self-confidence and leadership skills.