Meet our Mentors

Dr. Andrea Marshall, Giant Manta Ray Scientist


Andrea_DNA_samplingDr. Andrea Marshall has been living in Mozambique since 2003. Her PhD research on the population ecology of manta rays, conducted through the University of Queensland, was the first doctoral thesis to be completed on these enigmatic animals. Educated in the United States (University of California Santa Barbara) and Australia (University of Queensland), Andrea now lives in Africa. After finishing her thesis, Andrea stayed on to spearhead the conservation efforts of manta rays in Mozambique and form the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Megafauna.

Andrea’s world-leading manta ray research program (which has examined aspects of their biology, reproductive ecology, habitat use and social behavior) has dramatically increased the level of knowledge on manta rays. Her recent discovery of a new giant species of manta ray in 2008 was one of the largest new species to have been described by any scientist in the last 50 years. Andrea was also the senior author on the first worldwide conservation assessment for manta rays for the IUCN and continues to contribute to conservation efforts worldwide. Her current projects include topics ranging from systematics, phylogeography, population genetics, habitat use and migratory movements.

Andrea is also a semi-professional underwater photographer and is passionate about marine education, using her photography as a tool to inspire children and scuba divers alike. A diver since the age of twelve, Andrea has spent countless hours underwater and is especially fond of both exploratory diving and using her closed circuit re-breather to have close encounters with elusive marine species. Topping her list of best all time locations to dive are Cocos Island, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, San Benedicto and of course, Southern Mozambique. In 2009, BBC christened her the ‘Queen of Mantas’ honoring Andrea and her work in a TV documentary. In May 2013, Andrea was honored to be selected as one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers.

Alison Kock, Great White Shark Scientist


Alison Kock is a marine scientist determined to help secure the future of sharks through scientific research, awareness and community based conservation strategies.

Alison leads research on one of the world’s largest concentrations of white sharks on the doorstep of a major city. She is completing a doctoral degree on white shark feeding ecology, movement patterns and population dynamics through the University of Cape Town and is the research manager of the pioneering Shark Spotter Program in Cape Town, South Africa.

Alison is co-author of peer-reviewed articles on the predator-prey dynamics of white sharks and Cape fur seals, the impact of provisioning eco-tourism on the behavior of white sharks and shark bite mitigation measures. She is a skilled field biologist with expertise in wildlife telemetry, animal-borne cameras, photo-identification and tissue sampling of free-swimming sharks. She received a prestigious grant from the National Research Foundation for her Masters and Doctoral research.

Her work has been featured in hundreds of publications including the Smithsonian Magazine, CNN’s Planet in Peril, 100 Heartbeats and National Geographic documentaries. Fairlady and Oprah magazines featured her in articles about South Africans to be proud of and the City of Cape Town has recognized Alison for her role in the development of their policy on recreational water user safety and white shark conservation.

Alison has devoted her life to finding the facts and defusing the myths about Great White Sharks (Carcharodon carcharias). “My dad and I used to go on regular diving expeditions together, which fostered a love for ocean creatures, especially sharks. When I was very young, my dad used to take me fishing for lobster. Hauling out the nets we often found tiny cat sharks curled up in defensive balls, caught up in the traps. My dad told me that I had to kiss them on the nose and put them back in the water where they would uncurl and swim away. It was then a love of sharks was born. Ever since then I knew sharks would be a big part of my life. I will never forget the first time I saw a white shark flying clean out of the water and into the air while chasing a seal. From that day onwards, I have spent thousands of hours at sea studying these vulnerable creatures and have been fortunate to get to know that the real white shark is not a mindless killer. They are complex and majestic animals that are completely misunderstood.”


4 Reader Comments

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  1. Chelsey Conner says:

    Ocean-Gems! I’ve been crazy about the ocean since I was in the 4th grade. Living in Tennessee I don’t always get to be right at the ocean but when my family vacations, I explore all that I can in the deep blue sea! I read the article of Danni Washington in Seventeen Magazine and was so inspired by her work and pictures that I HAD start following her on instagram and twitter!! My dream is to be a marine biologist and I’m currently majoring in it. Soon I will have to make a big decision on moving states and going to a college where they actually offer marine science classes… (I’ve been looking at Coastal Carolina University.)
    I seen where you guys are currently in Mexico filming whale sharks… Those are actually my favorite. I will be in Cabo San Lucas and La Paz, Mexico August 9th-17th. If it would be possible and if there is time available, it would be great if I could meet up with someone from your team to talk about careers, schools and special classes, and other opportunities.
    Thank you!

  2. Ayden Hosein says:

    I am so interested and amazed by the ocean, but I live in Ontario, Canada and I never thought there was a chance I could study something like this because I’m so far away from an ocean. I would love to talk to some of the mentors to be able to ask some questions about this career.

    • Hi Ayden, I just saw your comment and I thought I would drop you a line. I’m a marine biologist originally from Quebec and I co-founded a non-profit organization in Victoria, BC, called the Fish Eye Project. We’re using technology to connect communities to the underwater world and let’s face it, it is really fun! Our
      next interactive live dive is at the end of September. Would you like to join us? Please be in touch and I can send you the live dive streaming link so you or your classroom could dive with us and ask questions to marine biologists and marine educators! Here’s some more info about the activities here:

    • Beth at Ocean GEMS says:

      Hey Ayden! Thanks for writing! We’d love the chance to connect with you, to learn more about what interests you and how we perhaps can help guide you towards your goals. Please send me a note at “” and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can (we are sometimes, like this week, out in the field – we are currently swimming with & filming whale sharks in Mexico! – so it can take a while to return a message!). Because the oceans affect all of us on the planet – it IS our life support system – it really doesn’t matter where you live to have an interest in studying our blue planet! Look forward to hearing from you! :-)

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