Today we are kicking off this short holiday week by introducing our July STEM Star!
Our theme for July is Biology! Biology is an area of science focused on the study of living organisms. This includes their structure, function, growth, identification and more.
Marine biology specifically is the focus of studying living things in the sea. If you love animals and nature, biology is a perfect area of science for you to explore more!
Our STEM Star for the month of July is Melissa Cristina Márquez and she studies Marine Biology and Conservation! We couldn't think of a better fit for this months STEM Star!
Márquez is also the Founder of The Fins United Initiative and the Education Assistant and Social Media Consultant of the Island Bay Marine Education Centre. But don't let us tell you about her, why not hear it from our July STEM Star herself?
What do you do in the area of marine biology?
I study sharks and their relatives, the skates, rays, and chimaeras. I specifically look at their habitat use and migratory behavior (why they are where they are), which human activities are a problem to them and social media coverage of them.
What sparked your interest in marine biology?
I grew up on the beaches of Puerto Rico, exploring the tidal pools and nearby coral reefs. Since then, you just can’t keep me away from the ocean!
Have you always lived in NZ? What brought you there?
I moved to New Zealand two years ago from Florida (USA) to get my MSc in Marine Biology. I got to study chimaeras and how New Zealand fisheries impact them!
Can you tell us a little about what The Fins United Initiative is?
The Fins United Initiative is a shark, skate, ray, and chimaera education and conservation program aiming to unite fin lovers worldwide. We feature a different species each week, and showcase the sciences used to study these animals. Through partnerships with educational institutions, TFUI provides easy-to-access materials that anyone can use to become a TFUI Officer! We aim to be the first program to showcase all 500+ species of sharks, skates, rays, and chimaeras in a memorable way that people of all ages can enjoy!
"The Fins United Initiative has connected with organizations and schools in all 50 USA states as well as over 10 countries… and it has no plans of stopping any time soon. If you want to be an ambassador for sharks and their relatives, join our growing team!"
What do you think is the most beautiful part of marine biology?
I find it fascinating that we are still learning new things about our oceans – especially the deep sea – every day! Scuba diving is one of my favorite hobbies because it’s usually a place I’ve never seen before.
What is your typical day like?
If I’m out on the field, I get up early to get to the marina and load up the boat with the crew. From here, we could be attaching tags to sharks or tracking where already tracked sharks go. On a data analysis day or “office day” as I like to call them, I’m in front of the computer answering e-mails, writing up reports or TFUI blog posts, and sometimes I get to record podcasts! Some days I devote to The Fins United Initiative and I’m out at schools or clubs giving #fintalks to people young and old – other times I get to do this via Skype or Google Hangouts!
What advice would you have for kids who love biology or want to do what you do?
Know that anyone can be a scientist regardless of their skin colour, age, nationality, gender, faith, or anything else. Work hard in school and ask lots of questions to encourage that passion of yours!
If you're having trouble picturing yourself as a scientist or want to learn more about marine biology, sharks, or myself, please send Meissa an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can follow her on Twitter (@mcmsharksxx) and learn more about her onher personal website
To more about The Fins United Initiative you can check them out on Facebook (@TheFinsUnitedInitiative) or on Instagram (@finsunitedinitiative)
You can also find their main website here.