ExplorersBio

Mariana Fuentes

Marine Biologist/Ecologist

Young Explorers Grantee

Phoot: Mariana Fuentes

Photograph courtesy Mariana Fuentes

Photo: Mariana Fuentes

Photograph courtesy Mariana Fuentes

Birthplace: Brazil

Current City: Townsville, Australia

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

My dream was to be a veterinarian of big animals and live in Africa. However, when I was 16 years old I had the opportunity to go to Zimbabwe for a month, where I was chased by an elephant while doing a safari in the Zambezi River. I knew there and then that this wasn't for me. A year later I went to the Cayman Islands and visited a manta ray feeding area, where a ray gave me the hugest hicky ever. I was fascinated and wanted to know more about the ray's behavior. I asked the marine biologists onboard several questions, and after this trip I knew I was going to be a marine biologist.

How did you get started in your field of work?

During the first year of my undergraduate degree I conducted an internship at Projeto Tamar (a sea turtle group in Brazil), and that's where I got captivated by sea turtles. Since then, I have always felt motivated to work at places that seek conservation and management of sea turtles through community involvement and education. As a result I have worked at various projects in Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Vanuatu, and Barbados.

What inspires you to dedicate your life to the conservation of sea turtles?

Their beauty, persistence, strength, and the hope that my work can contribute (even if at a very small scale) to their existence for many more millions of years.

What's a normal day like for you?

Unfortunately, my days are now spent in the office writing up and analyzing data. My main project now deals with developing a systematic framework to manage marine megafauna in the face of climate change. So, most of my traveling is to talk with different stakeholders that manage turtles and dugongs in Australia. This allows me to obtain a better understanding of the constraints and opportunities available for future management of this important species. Luckily, I am still involved with turtle-nesting monitoring and dugong tracking in Torres Strait. Fieldwork for these projects brings fond memories of all the time I spent in the field when I was starting as a marine biologist.

Do you have a hero and, if so, why is this person your hero?

No one in particular comes to my mind. But I generally admire people who follow their dreams and give their best to achieve what they want.

What's been your favorite experience in the field? Most challenging?

Every fieldwork and study site is special in a way, but nothing beats watching sea turtle hatchlings emerge from a nest or watching the sunrise after a hard night monitoring nesting turtles.

What are your other passions?

Friends and family

What do you do in your free time?

Mountain bike, crossfit, and meditation

If you could have people do one thing to support marine conservation, what would it be?

Take care of our planet!

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In Their Words

Every fieldwork and study site is special in a way, but nothing beats watching sea turtle hatchlings emerge from a nest or watching the sunrise after a hard night monitoring nesting turtles.

—Mariana Fuentes

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