I am currently doing my PhD in marine ecology at The University of Western Australia. I was born on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (Canary Islands), around 100 km offshore from the Sahara desert.
I always had a strong interest and connection with the marine environment, as it forms a big part of our culture and economy. Having a population density of around 170 times that of Australia, human pressures on the marine environment are severe and it was the degration that I have seen over the years that drove me to pursue a career in marine science.
Although I have been involved in varied research/volunteers programs, I have always had a predilection for reef fishes and the immense diversity reef systems hold. As part of my PhD, I seek to understand the extent to which different anthropogenic stressors are modifying the range of functions provided by marine fishes, both at regional and continental/national scales.
I first heard about the RLS program when I was an undergraduate in my local university (University of La Laguna, Spain). I had some friends that had started doing surveys for RLS at some local reefs, however, I never had the chance at that time to join the program.
It was when I moved to Australia that I got the opportunity to get more information about the program. Luckily for me, I also had the chance to meet RLS president Graham Edgar on a University field trip in WA. He told me about an upcoming trip to the North-West shelf offshore reefs, and it was clear to me that I could not miss this opportunity.
With a few campaigns on my back yet, I think that the North-West shelf trip I did in December-January 2019 would be difficult to beat.
Graham, Ian Shaw, Ben Jones and myself boarded Eviota to sail from Broome to Darwin, hoping to not find any cyclones on the way that would prevent us from completing surveys along the North-West shelf offshore reefs.
Being able to dive in one of the most remote locations in Australia, and getting training and experience in surveys of biodiverse coral reefs is an experience of a lifetime. There were many memorable moments in that trip, from extremely friendly sea snakes to the gorgeous natural scenery as we sailed up the King George River in the Kimberley.
I started diving at the age of 18 and it have been 10 years of underwater fun. I believe each of the places I have dived around the world has something unique. However, one of my favourite dive spots is Malapascua Island in the Philippines. It is one of the few places in the world where the Thresher Shark (Alopias pelagicus) can be regularly seen.
These species are normally nocturnal and spend most of the time in deeper waters, however, the cleaning stations around the edge of a submarine canyon on the island provide the perfect opportunity to enjoy the majesty of these animals.
I have a predilection for fishes as a whole, as they are ubiquitous in the marine environment and represent an immense array of forms, functions and evolutionary history. Within this group, groupers are one of my favourite species to encounter on a dive, perhaps because they have become extremely rare in my island as a result overfishing. Whenever I see a grouper back home, it give me a sense of hope for our marine resources.