Name: Tania Kenyon
What is your dream?
It is my dream that the children of today, their children and their children’s children, will be able to see for themselves the wonder, colour and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef as I have witnessed it. I want my PhD research to contribute to the conservation and restoration of reefs, and to investigate and broaden the field of coral reef ecology. I plan to engage the scientific community and the wider public in both my research and my lifestyle through outreach efforts including a blog and talks.
Tell us a bit about you.
I grew up in the Moreton Bay region of Brisbane, on a small piece of land backing onto bushland. My parents were avid campers, hikers and snorkelers, and from an early age I was besotted with nature and animals. We spent each Christmas on North Stradbroke Island, which is probably where I first fell in love with the beach and the ocean. I first learned to SCUBA dive after I finished school, and I remember being transfixed by the large eyes of a pufferfish. I studied a Bachelor of Science and did my Honours degree in dung beetle ecology before travelling to South America and visited the Galapagos Islands. A combination of sea lions playing, marine iguanas lounging and hammerheads schooling made me realise that marine science was the path for me.
How have you demonstrated commitment?
After a year of research, emails and meetings, I finally began my PhD three months ago. The broad topic is recovery of reefs following disturbances such as cyclones and even dynamite fishing. Outside of the PhD and since becoming involved with Reef Check Australia, I volunteered to be their Ambassador Coordinator in 2015. I have helped represent RCA at many festivals and events. I also recently became certified as a reef health surveyor, to participate in the monitoring of local reefs.
What challenges do you face?
My main challenge faced during my studies, my volunteer work and my lifestyle pursuits (amid other hobbies!) is time management. I would benefit from a mentor in this regard to help me keep a level head and teach me to work ‘smarter’. In addition, marine science is an extremely competitive field. Whether you go into academia, government or non-for-profit organisations, jobs are extremely difficult to find. Having support from a mentor in navigating this uncertain territory would be extremely useful.
How will you use the money?
Marine research is often logistically tricky and very expensive. I will need to find assistance to complete my research project on Lizard Island. I would use the money to complete a required full scientific diving course, to learn the skills required to undertake research using SCUBA. I would also buy a digital camera and underwater housing, which I will need for my research but I can also use it for work on my blog. I would use some of the money to kickstart my blog and try to generate exposure for it. As the RCA Ambassador Coordinator, I would use part of the money to organise a workshop for RCA ambassadors, including several speakers and activities.
How do you plan to give back?
After finishing the PhD, I hope to continue to contribute to our understanding of and the conservation of coral reefs, especially our very own Great Barrier Reef. I would also really like to work for a time on coral reef restoration on reefs in south-east Asia, where illegal dynamite fishing leads to vast rubble fields. It would be amazing to use my research to work with communities there to restore these areas, whilst contributing to education in the region. I plan to continue my citizen science work with RCA and I am scheduled to do my first reef health survey with RCA in early December. As the Ambassador Coordinator, in addition to the ambassador workshop I would like to start up a series of talks in Brisbane on marine science that are given once a month to not only RCA volunteers but also the general public.