Meet Rebecca Gladstone-Gallagher

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Job: 

Marine researcher at the University of Waikato.

Job description: 

I am a Marine Ecologist and I study the tiny organisms that live in and on the seafloor. Animals such as crabs, shellfish, marine worms, and marine snails are extremely important to the coastal ecosystem. These animals are an important food source for larger fish and humans (e.g. shellfish). Some of these tiny animals also do important jobs to keep the ecosystem healthy, for example, marine worms and crabs mix the sand like earth worms do in the garden, and shellfish filter the water. My job is to research how humans change the seafloor environment, and how these changes effect the tiny animals living there.

Work background: 

At high school, I was fascinated with biology, and so upon leaving high school, I decided to study Biological Sciences at the University of Waikato. During my first few years of university, I got exposed to marine biology, and I was given the opportunity to study mangroves and other marine plants at a post-graduate level. Shortly after completing my university education, I became a researcher at the University of Waikato (my current position).

Favourite part of job: 

The best part about my job is that I get to work outdoors with a great team of people studying the different and beautiful coastal ocean environments all around New Zealand. 

Least favourite part of job: 

Some of the coastal environments I have to work in are extremely muddy (sometimes knee deep!) and difficult to walk in! 

What I am working on now: 

I am currently working on a project studying how different species of marine animals do different jobs in the ecosystem. For example, shellfish have an important job of filtering the water. I want to know what happens to the ecosystem when some species are lost from the ecosystem and can no longer do their job.

A quick story about a job well done: 

During our work, we often have to place expensive scientific equipment underwater. This equipment can be exposed to strong currents and waves. Our team of marine scientists work together to come up with solutions to help keep the equipment safe from the currents and weather. Coming up with these solutions is sometimes challenging, but when we go back to collect the equipment with nothing lost or damaged, we know we have done a good job!

A (humorous) story about a job that went badly and what you learned: 

Our field work often involves collecting samples when the tide is out, so that we can access the animals living on the seafloor. This means that when we are working we are often racing against time to be finished before the tide comes back in! Sometimes, if the wind is blowing in the right direction, the tide can come in very fast! If we are still working at a sampling site when the tide comes in quickly, there is havoc as sampling gear is floating away with everyone on the team frantically chasing after things that have floated 100 meters away! This situation happens occasionally, but has taught me to always be careful and aware of the weather and tides at the site ahead of time!

Qualifications: 
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc), University of Waikato
  • Master of Science (MSc), University of Waikato
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Waikato
Interests outside work: 

In my spare time, I enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and kayaking. Since I am a Marine Ecologist, I am absolutely fascinated by the life under the sea, and so I often get out in my spare time to partake in snorkeling and recreational scuba diving. 


Rebecca is a marine researcher at the University of Waikato. Image: Sustainable Seas Challenge.