Melissa Marquez

Melissa Cristina Marquez, Founder
Fins United

Life Inside the Lab

What is your research topic? I largely focus on the behaviour and ecology of Chondrichthyans (sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras), mostly looking at where they choose to spend most of their time. This ties into sustainable fisheries management, where my research prevents overfishing and rebuilds fish populations (stocks). I also am an avid science communicator, talking to the public about my research, and to kids about sharks and how they are important.

What was your worst day in science? Being turned down from every graduate school I applied to in the US.

What was your best day of science? Being accepted to Oxford on a full ride scholarship after being rejected so many times. Best day so far was walking across the stage and collecting my MSc degree.


Melissa Marquez is a MSc Candidate at the Victoria University of Wellington and the Founder of Fins United. You can follow along with her science on Twitter at @mcmsharksxx. Here she is doing great white shark research with Oceans Research in Mossel Bay, South Africa.

What are you studying at university? My latest degree (MSc) focus on habitat use in Chondrichthyans, specifically deep sea sharks found in New Zealand.

What are some of the highlights of your career right now? Being nominated for Shorty Awards in the Science category (didn’t win), surpassing 10,000 people educated by my organization (Fins United Initiative) in 3 years, getting my MSc degree.

What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? My computer- it allows me to talk to colleagues all over the world and access data freely!

Life Outside of Lab

Where did you grow up? I mostly grew up in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

 Diving with sixgill sharks in Cape Town, South Africa.


What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I was always adamant about being a marine biologist. If not that, a storm chaser.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? I go for a run, read, cook, or spend time with my husband.

Do you have any pets? Sadly, no.

Do you have any fun hobbies? I’d like to think scuba diving is quite fun! I also enjoy going to my monthly wine and cheese gatherings.

If you want to talk about your family like and how did it develop alongside your career? I’m extremely lucky to have grown up with a very close, very supportive family. My parents have always pushed me to follow my passion

Big Picture

What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? I haven’t obtained my PhD just yet. But, I want to do a PhD because I want to eventually run my own organisation (like, make TFUI legit with a headquarters) that allows myself and the staff (/students) to conduct research while doing outreach to the public.

What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Surround yourself with phenomenal people who are confident and secure enough to know that there is room for everyone to make succeed. Don’t think about what could go wrong when you put yourself out there, think about what could go right!

Are there any women in STEM who are inspiring you right now, and why? I follow a ton of amazing women in STEM on Twitter that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few! But my biggest inspirations are Eugenie Clark, Jane Goodall, and Sylvia Earle.

Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? There is much left to be desired when it comes to the number of women in science fields in general. That’s why I’m thankful that organizations like Gills Club exist to help foster that love of science early in girls.MARQUEZ2.JPG

 Free diving off the western coast of Mexico.

Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? I think growing up with shows like The Wild Thornberry’s and people like David Attenborough really opened my eyes to nature. I also grew up exploring the beaches of Puerto Rico, which deepened my already existing love of the ocean.

Why were you drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? How close was your schooling related to your current job? I have always been interested in the ocean, even from a young age. In our yearly trips to visit family in Puerto Rico, you could always find me by the tide pools or snorkeling. I’d even buy old marine biology textbooks and read them for fun! It astounds me that we have so much more to discover, and I’ve always been drawn to that sense of mystery.

What was your biggest challenge during your degree? Some days the words flew off my fingers while others I sat staring at a blank page for hours because I didn’t know how to write what was going through my brain at rapid speed.


What is your favorite book? The Harry Potter series has to be my favorite collection.
What is your favorite desk snack? Popcorn and dark chocolate!
What is your favorite cartoon? I still enjoy The Wild Thornberry’s immensely to this day.
What would you listen to while writing? Currently on my Spotify is the Hamilton soundtrack, specifically the song “Nonstop.”
What was your favorite subject in high school? Band!
What is the strangest thing on your desk right now? A shark stuffed animal wearing shark socks on its pectoral fins and a Santa hat.
Organization nut, or curated chaos? Organization nut! I enjoy to-do lists, sticky notes, that whole deal.
What color socks are you wearing? Red socks… with pugs that are wearing Santa hats.

Contact Melissa on Twitter @mcmsharksxx

The website for the Fins United outreach program:

The Fins United Initiative is a shark, skate, ray and chimaera education and conservation program aiming to unite fin lovers worldwide. Through partnerships with K-12th grade educational institutions, The Fins United Initiative provides easy-to-access materials that educators can use in their classrooms. The programs use innovative, participatory learning techniques that allow students to fully grasp the important role these animals play in our oceans. Since 2013 we have educated over 10,000 people!