Dr. Rachel Graham

Founder and Executive Director

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Fascinated with the sea from the early days growing up in Tunisia, Rachel Graham was drawn to the fields of research, environment and development in Latin America, Africa and Micronesia.

For the past 30 years she has worked with both the private sector and institutions such as the United Nations, the University of York, the Smithsonian Institution and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

For over two decades Rachel has lived in Belize and worked with fishers and partners in several countries to identify threats, research needs and conservation opportunities for threatened marine wildlife and their critical habitats. As part of this work, Rachel has catalysed a range of megafauna research and conservation action worldwide and is an active member of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and helped to found several National Shark Advisory Committees to better facilitate information sharing as well as management and policy reform for elasmobranchs.

In 2011, she won the Whitley Fund for Nature Gold Award for her work with sharks and communities.

In 2014, Rachel founded the international NGO MarAlliance to promote impactful and inclusive grassroots science and conservation of marine wildlife.

Rachel holds a BSc in Zoology from Oxford, an MSc from Edinburgh and a PhD from the University of York, UK. She is most proud of her two sons who balance their love of fishing with their desire to be marine scientists and conservationists.

Ivy Baremore, MSc

Technical Coordinator

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Ivy Baremore was recently accepted into the University of Exeter where she will pursue her PhD on the topic of deep-sea fisheries of the MesoAmerican Region. She graduated from Florida State University in 2001 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences, and then worked as a biological technician for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Panama City Laboratory for 3 years, where she was also field party chief of small boat operations for the Gulf of Mexico Shark Pupping and Nursery survey.

Following her Master’s Degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from University of Florida, in 2006 Ivy returned to NMFS in Panama City, Florida as a fishery observer coordinator, and later transitioned to the role of fishery biologist. Her research focused on commercial and recreational landings and life history biology of shark species in support of stock assessment.

She moved to Belize in 2013 and transitioned to the role of technical coordinator with MarAlliance, where she helps to coordinate and implement research and data analyses.

BELIZE

Hilmar Salazar

Fisher & Community Field Coordinator, Belize

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Hilmar Salazar has been a commercial fisher for 20 years and is based in Sarteneja, Belize.

In addition to his work as a fisher, he has volunteered with a number of environmental organizations, including World Wildlife Fund, Wildtracks, and the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development.

As Community Field Coordinator, Hilmar’s work helps to foster grassroots support for large marine wildlife in multiple sectors. Hilmar is responsible for organizing and leading training initiatives for both community leaders, students and fishers. He trains fishermen on standardized monitoring methods for large marine wildlife both within and outside the MarAlliance team, throughout the countries of the MesoAmerican Reef.

Hilmar is very passionate about his work with sharks and hopes to ensure a promising future for his 14 year old son.

Dan Castellanos

Fisher & Field Research Coordinator, Belize

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Dan Castellanos began fishing with his father, a traditional Belizean fisher, when he was 12 years old. This transfer of passion and knowledge from father to son led to Dan’s interest in the marine environment. He pursued a future in small-scale commercial fishing, eventually earning a position as captain.

In addition to his many years of work as a fisherman, Dan decided to pursue work as a freelance guide. He guides people from all over the world to areas unique to Belize and Guatemala, leading fly fishing enthusiasts to healthy bonefish flats.

Dan began working with Dr. Graham in 1999 while she was studying whale sharks and spawning aggregations throughout Belize. He subsequently worked with her as part of the Wildlife Conservation Society Sharks and Rays program for seven years, playing a major role in fishing, tagging, and captaining. In 2014, he took on the role of Lead Research Associate and Boat Captain for MarAlliance.

Dan is fascinated with marine megafauna research and it has afforded him countless opportunities to travel to other research sites, meet a variety of other researchers and undertake cutting edge research.

Evaristo Muschamp

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

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Evaristo Muschamp has spent his entire life directly connected to the sea. He has 17 years of experience as a commercial fisherman.

Like many of the fishers in the MarAlliance team, Evaristo makes a living diving for lobster and conch in Belize. He is very passionate about this work, taking great pride in being a part of one of the oldest industries in the country. Evaristo finds his work a freeing and rewarding means of income, granting him access to beautiful, unique, and remote locations.

After many years of hearing about her work, Evaristo decided to join Dr. Rachel Graham in her effort to study local sharks and rays. He began working as a part of the shark survey in 2011, helping to catch and tag elasmobranchs along the Mesoamerican Reef. He likes getting to work with these wild animals while he learns more about their behaviors and biology through hands on research and has now traveled to Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras to work with large marine wildlife and train other fishers in long term monitoring methods.

Kurt Godfrey “Mambo”

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

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Kurt Godfrey, known locally as Mambo, grew up in the beautiful fishing village of Placencia, Belize. Mambo is a third generation fisher and has been a fly fishing guide for more than 35 years. Always interested in exploring new opportunities and adventures, Mambo is also the Vice Chairman of the Placencia Seaweed Farmers Association. However, the deep waters have always called to him, and he recently began reducing his tour guiding in order to explore the deep-sea fishes in southern Belize. He fishes the deeper waters for fish filet to sell, but also out of outright curiosity and love for the sea. Mambo began working with MarAlliance in 2015, when he was the captain for our first deep-water sharks and fish research project in southern Belize. He was excited to be part of this novel research, as it suits his curious nature and his ideas for conservation of Belize’s natural resources.

Nelson Ortega

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

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For eight years now, coastal fisher Nelson Ortega joins MarAlliance as a captain during our work and trainings. Every year, he leaves his job as a fisher, to join us for a few weeks out at sea to take part in field work.

Throughout his life, Nelson has been a fisher and boat captain in Sarteneja, a village based in Corozal district on the northern coast of Belize’s mainland, and home to the country’s largest fishing community.

Nelson loves to widen his horizons. His eagerness to discover new things has allowed him to stay with MarAlliance as a captain and advisor in the field work.

Eduardo Ortega

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

Evan Cuevas

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

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Evan Cuevas has been a commercial fisher for 10 years, based in Monkey River Village in the Toledo district of Belize.

As many fishers do, he began fishing with his father for fish, lobster and conch when he was 14 years old. Evan went on to study tourism and business in secondary school, however his passion for fishing and marine life brought him back to the sea, earning a living diving for lobster and conch.

Evan joined the MarAlliance team in 2016 as a research assistant studying sharks and rays. He participated in the annual monitoring of marine megafauna at Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Reef Atoll, where he assisted our researchers in the capture and tagging of sharks, running underwater visual surveys and setting and analyzing baited remote underwater videos.

Evan is increasingly involved in the education and outreach program, representing MarAlliance at TIDE Fish Fest in Punta Gorda, Belize. Evan is ecstatic knowing he’s contributing to the conservation marine megafauna and looks forward to an exciting future balancing his love of fishing with marine conservation.

Cynthia Xiu

Outreach & Education Officer, Belize

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Cynthia grew up on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize and it was there that her passion for the environment began. Living just a few feet away from the sea, she learned how to swim by the age of four.

During her time in high school Cynthia volunteered in the Belize Red Cross and also became a member of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO). By her last year of high school she was constantly traveling to help her community, and it was during her time volunteering that Cynthia realized how much her passion for helping both people and the environment had grown. Her experiences helped her to understand the relationship between people and the environment and the impact humans can have on the world around them. From then on, she was determined to further her education in the field of natural resources management.

Cynthia recently earned her Associates degree in both Biology and Natural Resource Management from Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College in San Roman Village, Belize. She has worked in the tourism industry in San Pedro for two years, and joined MarAlliance in April, 2017 as a Research Intern. With MarAlliance, she hopes to gain experience in as many aspects of natural resource management as possible to apply to her future education and career.

Norma and Delcia Forman

Inimitable Field Chefs, Belize

MICRONESIA

Dr. Kevin Rhodes

Coordinator, Micronesia and Coastal Fisheries

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While a kid growing up 60 miles from the coast in southeast Texas, Kevin Rhodes was surrounded by deciduous forest, rivers and lakes, but every Sunday evening, he immersed himself in tropical marine life through the television show “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” That fascination led him to attend the University of Texas at Austin where he dabbled in phycology, range ecology and freshwater fishes before heading to Moss Landing Marine Labs to work on Yellow Sea (China) demersal fishes.

He received his BS degree in Aquatic Biology in 1988 followed by a Masters in Marine Science (1995) from Cal State University at Hayward and doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in 2002. His first real chance at coral reef fish ecology began with a connection through a (The) Nature Conservancy article on the Southeast Asia-based live reef food fish trade written by Prof. Yvonne Sadovy de Micheson who would become his future mentor. This article also led Kevin to the Coral Triangle and surrounding environs where he has been focused ever since.

Today, as MarAlliance’s Coastal Fisheries Coordinator Kevin shares his knowledge and experience to empower local fishing communities to control their future and their resources

Taylor Paul

Fisher & Field Associate, Micronesia

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While a kid growing up 60 miles from the coast in southeast Texas, Kevin Rhodes was surrounded by deciduous forest, rivers and lakes, but every Sunday evening, he immersed himself in tropical marine life through the television show “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” That fascination led him to attend the University of Texas at Austin where he dabbled in phycology, range ecology and freshwater fishes before heading to Moss Landing Marine Labs to work on Yellow Sea (China) demersal fishes.

He received his BS degree in Aquatic Biology in 1988 followed by a Masters in Marine Science (1995) from Cal State University at Hayward and doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in 2002. His first real chance at coral reef fish ecology began with a connection through a (The) Nature Conservancy article on the Southeast Asia-based live reef food fish trade written by Prof. Yvonne Sadovy de Micheson who would become his future mentor. This article also led Kevin to the Coral Triangle and surrounding environs where he has been focused ever since.

Today, as MarAlliance’s Coastal Fisheries Coordinator Kevin shares his knowledge and experience to empower local fishing communities to control their future and their resources

McKye Ioanis

Research Associate, Micronesia

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While a kid growing up 60 miles from the coast in southeast Texas, Kevin Rhodes was surrounded by deciduous forest, rivers and lakes, but every Sunday evening, he immersed himself in tropical marine life through the television show “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” That fascination led him to attend the University of Texas at Austin where he dabbled in phycology, range ecology and freshwater fishes before heading to Moss Landing Marine Labs to work on Yellow Sea (China) demersal fishes.

He received his BS degree in Aquatic Biology in 1988 followed by a Masters in Marine Science (1995) from Cal State University at Hayward and doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in 2002. His first real chance at coral reef fish ecology began with a connection through a (The) Nature Conservancy article on the Southeast Asia-based live reef food fish trade written by Prof. Yvonne Sadovy de Micheson who would become his future mentor. This article also led Kevin to the Coral Triangle and surrounding environs where he has been focused ever since.

Today, as MarAlliance’s Coastal Fisheries Coordinator Kevin shares his knowledge and experience to empower local fishing communities to control their future and their resources

HONDURAS

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Ely Augustinus

Honduras Country Coordinator

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Ely was born in the pacific coast of Honduras, and it was there where she saw her first shark playing near a fishing pier when she was 8 years old and it was love at first sight.

She studied Biology in the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), during her time as a student she became a volunteer at the Museum of Natural History, conducting a study on hammerhead shark teeth and their use in taxonomy, age and growth. She was the first woman to become a research associate at the museum.

In 2014 she began teaching Ichthyology at the University, focusing on elasmobranchs. In 2015 she joined the Institute of Conservation and Forestry (ICF) where she was in charge of biological monitoring.

She joined the MarAlliance Team as Research Intern and following her internship became a Research Associate. She is working on long-term elasmobranch monitoring, deep-sea shark studies, sawfish surveys and marine education in Honduras.

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Grace Horberry

Research Intern, Honduras

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As a child, Grace spent her summers in the Isle of Wight, UK where she would spend all her time jumping into rock pools to see what she could find. Grace graduated in 2016 with a BSc in Economics and, after a brief detour into theatre production, She spent six months as a school librarian on the Galapagos Islands. It was on these unique islands where her eyes were opened to how delicate an ecosystem can be and just how great a need there is for conservation.

Since then, Grace has gained experience inside the office of a conservation organization as well as some field experience monitoring the coral reef in Belize. She is eager to learn more biology during her time with MarAlliance, as well as gain more field experience in order to prepare her for studying her Masters in the coming year.

Exson Flores

Exson Alejandro Flores

Fisher & Field Associate, Honduras

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Exson was born in the community of Jutiapa in the department of Atlantida in the North Coast of Honduras. At the age of five, he and his family moved to the small fishing community of East End in Cayos Cochinos, a small archipelago a few kilometers from the Caribbean coast. Exson began fishing at the age of seven with his friends in the community, making fishing gear with whatever they found.

Today, Exson is a community leader in East End and is part of the community council in charge of the welfare of his people. Exson has a depth of experience working with marine biologists and has participated in several studies assessing the connectivity of parrotfish in the MesoAmerican Reef region as well as the reproduction of sea cucumbers in Cayos Cochinos. Exson joined MarAlliance in 2015 and is responsible for conducting Marine Megafauna monitoring and during this process training other artisanal fishers from the region. He is a devoted father and very passionate about marine conservation and vocal about the welfare of coastal communities, especially his beloved East End.

PANAMA

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Megan Chevis, MSc

Coordinator, Panama

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Megan received her BSc in Environmental Science from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2012 and her MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation from the University of Exeter – Penryn in 2015. Her Master’s research project focused on the spatial ecology of hawksbill turtles in Belize under the guidance of Dr. Brendan Godley and Dr. Graham. Her previous work has focused on humpback whales off the Pacific coast of Panama and marine turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and Costa Rica.

Megan moved back to Panama in 2015, hoping to make a difference for the marine life and habitats there, which she has seen drastically change since she was a child. She has been leading MarAlliance projects throughout the country since then, conducting annual marine megafauna monitoring at several Caribbean sites, leading coastal fisheries projects, and conducting sawfish assessments. She also leads the education program, where she visits school classrooms in several provinces to educate young kids about the marine life of Panama and their threats and hopefully inspire them to become marine scientists and conservationists themselves.

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Leyson Navarro Lopez

Research Officer, Panama

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Leyson, originally from the Guna Yala Comarca on Panama’s Caribbean coast, was born and raised in the small community of Playón Chico, surrounded by the sea. His childhood in and around the water is what lead him to study Marine Biology and Limnology at the University of Panama, where he is in his final year. Leyson is passionate about marine ecosystems and is eager to learn more and participate in projects with MarAlliance for the conservation of marine fauna. He is currently working with MarAlliance on lionfish and marine megafauna projects in the Narganá region of Guna Yala, and will be completing his undergraduate research project using Baited Remote Underwater Videos and underwater visual census to develop the first baseline study of sharks, rays, and other big fish in the region.

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Ana Batista

Research Officer, Panama

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Ana is currently leading the data collection of sharks, rays, and other big fish landed in artisanal fisheries at multiple sites along the Pacific coast of Panama. Originally from the Los Santos province on the Pacific coast of Panama, her undergraduate thesis project focused on developing baselines of sea turtle nesting sites with the NGO Tortugas Pedasi. During her internship with MarAlliance, she was assisting with fisheries-dependent work in the Azuero peninsula, as well as with megafauna monitoring and education activities.

She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science at the University of Panama, where she will continue studying marine biology. Her thesis work with MarAlliance will focus on elasmobranchs on the Pacific coast of Panama.

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Carlos Pitterson

Fisher & Field Associate, Panama

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Carlos is a traditional artisanal fisher from the Bocas del Toro islands on the Caribbean coast of Panama. Born and raised on Isla Colón, he has been fishing in the waters around the archipelago all of his life. He has been a critical part of our megafauna monitoring work in Bocas since 2016 as a captain as well as assisting with data collection and logistical aspects of the project. He says his work with MarAlliance has given him a different perspective and appreciation of the marine life around Bocas, something which he is eager to pass on to his children.

CABO VERDE

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Zé Luís Monteiro

Fisher & Field Associate, Cabo Verde

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Zé Luís is originally from Praia Baixo on the Island of Santiago though has lived in Boavista for the last 15 years. He comes from a family of fishers (with 19 brothers and sisters to the same parents!). He is the captain of a 6m artisanal fishing boat-come-research vessel ‘Stephanie’ and probably the happiest fisher in Cabo Verde! He navigates the sea around Boavista second to none and is never fazed even in adverse conditions.

Over the last few years, he has become a pioneer in shark conservation in Cabo Verde and increasingly involved in educating children. He is fascinated by the gentleness of the whale shark. His favourite fish is the yellowfin tuna. He is the proud father of two little girls and a massive FC Porto fan.

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Cintia Lima

Coordinator, Cabo verde

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Cintia grew up on the islands of São Vicente and Sal but set her roots in Boavista 8 years ago. Passionate about helping people make positive choices for the environment, Cintia has a degree in social education from the University of Porto in Portugal and has been working in social and environmental projects in Boavista for the last 3 years. She is particularly interested in changing perceptions and inspiring young people about sharks, rays and the marine environment.

She brings a passion for nature and biodiversity, education and photography and is excited to be able to combine these elements whilst working towards raising awareness and improving our relationship with the sea in her beloved Boavista.

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Francesco Garzon

Research Officer, Cabo Verde

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Francesco graduated with an MSci in Conservation Biology and Ecology from the University of Exeter in 2018. Although he had always had a passion for animals, it was during his time at university that Francesco truly fell in love with the marine megafauna. He was fortunate to be able to conduct his undergraduate project on his favorite animal (the manta ray) under the guidance of Dr. Lucy Hawkes, Dr. Matthew Witt and Dr. Rachel Graham. He also conducted his master’s project under their supervision, studying the nurse shark population of Belize.

Through these projects he came to know MarAlliance and identified with their vision. Francesco is now a research associate for MarAlliance and his work is primarily focused on using mathematical modeling to describe the spatial ecology of megaplanktivores, as well as of other elasmobranch species.

Francesco aims to broaden the knowledge of sharks and rays through scientific research and create information that can be used for the management and conservation of these species.

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Mafalda Navas

Outreach and Education Intern, Cabo Verde

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Mafalda recently graduated from the University of the West of England with an MSc in Wildlife Conservation. Her masters research focused on the perceptions of and support for conservation in São Tomé and Príncipe, where she conducted a case study of three socio-professional groups directly impacted by sea turtle conservation.

She has always had a passion for the natural world and the human relationship with it. However, it was when she joined Maio Biodiversity Foundation, in Cabo Verde, that she discovered her vocation in environmental education. In Maio she also had the opportunity to work directly in sea turtle, cetacean and shark conservation.

Mafalda joined Maralliance Cabo Verde in 2019 as an intern in environmental education. Her goal is to focus her technical and cognitive skills in the protection of nature and to promote critical thinking, engagement and action in environmental problem-solving and sustainable development.

USA

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Simon Gulak

Research Associate, USA

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Simon Gulak received his Bachelor’s Degree in Oceanography with Marine Biology from the University of Southampton, England, in 2001. He went on to work as a fishery observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Panama City Laboratory and Southeast Fisheries Science Centre (SEFSC) Miami Laboratory for five years.

In 2007, Simon joined the NMFS Panama City Laboratory fishery observer office as an assistant coordinator and started a part-time MSc of Zoology at the University of Aberdeen, in Scotland. He completed the MSc in 2012 with the thesis entitled “Phylogenetics and phylogeography of the bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas (Valenciennes, 1839)”. In the interim, he was promoted from assistant observer coordinator to lead fishery observer coordinator for two observer programs at SEFSC.

Simon has co-authored five peer-reviewed publications and is the lead author on one regarding the hooking mortality in two species of hammerhead sharks. As an observer coordinator, Simon has trained observers in Liberia, Gabon, Oregon, Florida, and Texas. He has been involved in several shark stock assessments, providing data series documents and also manages satellite tagging data of elasmobranchs.

In 2015, Simon formed the consultancy company, Sea Leucas LLC, with which he hopes to support MarAlliance’s mission in Central America.

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Sam Owen

Technology Development Associate, USA

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The first time Sam plunged into the chilly waters off Victoria, Canada he was fascinated by the lives of the creatures living beneath the waves, only reluctantly returning to the surface. A trip to Ecuador cemented his love of marine megafauna and, after completing a BSc in Ecology he was determined to participate in research and conservation.

A natural tinkerer Sam has been disassembling and fixing things since he was a small child, a skill that has proven useful to MarAlliance. Sam initially joined MarAlliance for a 6 month media/research internship in 2015 where he helped with research, outreach and fieldwork. Since then, Sam has been an important part of the development of our Deep Baited Remote Underwater Video systems and durable inexpensive field computers, and improvements to our equipment. His latest project is an inexpensive Conductivity Depth Recorder and Temperature Depth Recorders that will greatly expand our environmental data collection capabilities.

When he isn’t working for MarAlliance, Sam is a Live Animal Technician at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada.


In Memoriam


Zeddy Seymour, MSc

Coordinator, Cabo Verde

Zeddy graduated with a BA in Hispanic and Latin American studies in 2010, and he spent a year living in the northeast of Brazil. The following year he moved to Mozambique in order to gain field experience working in Niassa National Reserve and Gorongosa National Park. In 2012 he graduated with Distinction in the MSc. In Conservation Biology from the University of Exeter during which he was fortunate to study elasmobranchs with Dr. Rachel Graham in Belize.

He has experienc in managing projects for ZSL in Europe and African as well as on the ground in Cabo Verde during his time in turtle conservation. He has diverse knowledge of Latin America and Africa both conducting research and working at a community level. He speaks Portuguese, Spanish and Caboverdean Kriol.

Zeddy is coordinator for MarAlliance in Cabo Verde where he conducts baseline studies and long-term monitoring for elasmobranchs. Managing an array of projects with a focus on spatial ecology and reproduction of migratory species. He aims to provide information that can be used to improve protective area management and safeguard threatened species. He is equally, focused on building strong community links with traditional fishers and local students that can enable future conservation. He is increasingly aiming to communicate science at a government level and change common misperceptions surrounding sharks and rays.




Former and Current Students

Georgie Blow
Roxane Borruat
Megan Chevis
Francesco Garzon
Dr. Adrian Gleiss
Linnea Joandi
Kim Lees
Julie Lewis
James Lewis
Lois Moriel
Coihmne O’Brian Moran
Kate Philpott
Dr. Kylie Scales
Zeddy Seymour
Sophie Thompson
Alexandra Guzman
Ramiro Solis
Alexandra de Leon
Rodnyel Arosemena
Ricardo Arauz
Rebeca Castellanos
Anyie Gonzalez
Yumi Ortiz
Yari Torres
Yaily Castillo
Melany Hernandez




Volunteers

Maya Levy
Perry Fennel
Grace Horberry
Emma Janke
Maria Khoslova
Thomas Meyer
Sam Owen
Cameron Rhodes
Amanda Resterer