Featured ‘Day in the life of’: Melissa, a Latina marine biologist and wildlife educator

Hi everyone! My name is Melissa Cristina Márquez, and I am a Latina marine biologist and wildlife educator! I have a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Ecology and Conservation from New College of Florida (USA) and an MSc in Marine Biology from Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand).

During my undergraduate degree I was lucky enough to travel all over the world to participate in shark research (Bahamas, Mexico, Belize, and South Africa) before settling into my final year in Sarasota, Florida! It was here that I realized how disconnected some people who lived there were to their own backyard, Sarasota Bay. Most people didn’t know sharks called those waters home! And so The Fins United Initiative (TFUI; www.finsunited.co.nz) was born; it’s a program that brings attention to the unusual and diverse sharks (and their relatives) of the world, the diverse scientists that study them, and the threats these animals face. I still run this program today!

Currently in Sydney (Australia) and in-between MSc and PhD, I am looking at Chondrichthyan (shark, skate, ray, and chimaera) depictions in folkore and myths. Interested in how people form attitudes towards predators (land vs marine), I’m also seeing if the larger region’s public opinion matches the local folkore/myth and if that perception of these animals sways conservation initiatives. I’m learning a lot about different cultures and animals worldwide and that constant “Woah, I didn’t know that!” makes this research so interesting to me.

You can follow me on Instagram at @melissacristinamarquez. I am trying to build a platform where I can communicate my science in an interesting way — and in two languages! When I’m not studying sharks and their relatives, I love hiking the Australian wilderness with my husband, road tripping, and binge watching some good documentaries.

I am looking forward to sharing my day with you!

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When I’m not working my temp job as a secretary (gotta pay those bills somehow!), I like to wake up with the sun and pour myself a hot cup of peppermint tea. I don’t like coffee, so this stuff wakes me right up and gets my day going! This is definitely me sleeping in.

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While the water is boiling in my kettle, I browse through my social media outlets (all three- The Fins United Initiative, ConCiencia Azul, and my personal brand as Melissa Cristina Márquez) and reply to any comments made while I slept. I also check my e-mail during this time and make sure to star anything super important. Once I’ve got my tea in hand, I move on to my computer. Today’s work consists of finalizing brochures for The Fins United Initiative to hand out at events and have on the website to download. I never got professional design training, but I like to think I’m not too bad.

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I’m always on the go! Today I have three special stops — I love Australian roads (and a petrol-friendly car). Let’s go!

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First stop is to a local museum for some research.  I am currently looking at the history, mythology, and folkore around sharks and their relatives. I’m interested in seeing how people form attitudes towards predators (and how those attitudes vary between land vs marine predators) and if that perception sways conservation initiatives. That leads me to the second part of my research: to see if the larger region’s public opinion towards these animals matches the local folkore and/or myth. The third part is seeing if the myth matches the animal. I’ve gotten some interesting results thus far!

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Off to my next stop: a school! I give talks to all ages about a variety of topics– from sharks to ocean ecosystems and why they’re important to what it’s like to be a female scientist.

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One more stop and possibly one of my favorites. We’re going diving! Not an every day occurrence for a marine biologist, depending what you do. I love diving – thanks to Cressi for my gear!

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This dive is for something super special — make sure to tune in to Shark Week this year, you just may see a familiar face.

8a

Back home and after a warm shower and some dinner, I’m back on the computer and working on some special stuff for my podcast, ConCiencia Azul. We have a Facebook page you should totally check out. 

8b

 ConCiencia Azul is a marine conservation and education podcast that interviews marine scientists from around the world and talks about the issues our oceans face… all in Spanish! As a proud Latina in STEM, this is my way of making ocean science more diverse and inclusive for those who don’t speak English! Like the sound of that? You can find us on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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Gearing up for a podcast recording– this person is from Central America, so it’s going to be a late night!  TFUI takes about 15 hours a week (researching, interviews, writing up blog posts, adding sections to the website, collaborations, etc.), ConCiencia Azul at least 10 hours (website updates, interviews, recordings, editing, and more). The hours vary– sometimes I have to get up at 2 or 3 in the morning to get interviews done or video a class in North America.

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I’m working to produce English/Spanish e-books to provide to high school and universities worldwide that talk about things like how to set up your resume, how skills you learn in volunteering can help you in STEM, what you should do to get the most out of your first conference, etc. All free, all for them.  Passion led me to being an advocate for misunderstood predators; it also me to standing up for the voiceless and stepping aside to let other voices be heard. Passion — and being fed up with the status quo of leaving minorities behind — led me to dream of educational tools that allow me to create more inclusive classrooms. I’m continuing to work on all of my “three jobs” and giving 110% to each. Not to mention, I’m doing my own science research on the side to eventually get my PhD.

Phew! What a busy day! Now I’m ready to curl up with a hot mug of tea (chamomile this time), a comfy sweater, and look out of the telescope I own with my husband. Good night, everyone!

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