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Women in Science: Christine Dudgeon

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

Welcome to Shark Guardian’s Women in Science feature where we highlight the incredible work that women do in shark and ocean conservation around the world. Our first scientist is Christine Dudgeon, a long time partner, supporter, and friend of Shark Guardian's so we couldn’t be more excited to share her story with you. Without further ado let’s get stuck in!

Important note: This article will feature and reference the regionally named Leopard Sharks. These same sharks are internationally known as Zebra Sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum).



Q1. Can you tell us about the path that led to your current job role?

I have been fascinated by the oceans and sharks from a fairly young age. Going to the beach was my favorite family holiday. I grew up inland in Australia, in a city called Canberra, which was 2 hours from the coast. I moved to Townsville at 17 to study marine science at James Cook University and enjoyed living in a tropical place. There was not much research on sharks up there at that time so I focused on reef fish and also some coral research and developed genetic skills. I spent a lot of time volunteering for different projects to gain experience in the field and research diving. Eventually I decided to do a PhD and started looking for projects on sharks. I did some traveling as well and went to South Africa to work as an intern on a white shark research project. This was great experience and increased my enthusiasm. I eventually found a project based at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, which was focused on the ecology and evolution of leopard sharks. This combined my interests in diving and genetics, and given it was a species that not much was known about, also enabled me to be a bit explorative. Following my PhD I had two children and worked part time while also accompanying my partner overseas for two study leave trips for his work as a professor in psychology at the University of Queensland. I kept involved with shark and ray research by undertaking two postdoctoral fellowships – one was focused on leopard sharks and included the Spot the Leopard Shark Project (STLS) in Thailand, and one was focused on manta ray research in Australian waters. During this latter project I started expanding my research portfolio and supervising students working on different species and questions, including some more applied studies on population structure for commercial fish species. I started my current position as a research fellow a year ago and manage a research project based on Lady Elliot Island investigating nutrient flow from the land through to the sea and connectivity of the reef with surrounding areas. This includes some of the shark and ray species, but I have had to expand my skill set to work with birds and turtles among other things. My path has not been direct but I have made it my own.


Picture: Zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) / Leopard shark


Q2. Tell us about some of your favorite experiences with sharks?