✉ rafaela.landeabriones [at] uq.net.au
Raised near the sea of the long, coastal country of Chile, I have had a strong connection to the ocean since birth. While studying at high school, I trained to become a diving instructor to continue my deep engagement with the sea. I undertook an undergraduate degree in Ecotourism Management in Chile, and did my thesis on the development of ecotourism marine routes and ecological diving inside the marine protected area of Isla Grande de Atacama, in northern Chile. While doing this project, I found my passion for marine conservation and quickly realized that this is what I want to do in my professional career.
The drive for marine conservation brought me to the region of Patagonia, where I lived and worked for several years. My work in Patagonia resulted in the creation and implementation of the foundation of the Melimoyu Ecosystem Research Institute (MERI) in 2011. From the implementation until today, one of MERI's primary lines of work is on the endangered Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus) of the Gulf of Corcovado in the Chiloense Ecoregion. The research work is carried out in partnership with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), which has so far resulted in three publications about passive acoustic monitoring.
I arrived in Australia in 2015 to study the Master of Environmental Management program at UQ, majoring in Conservation & Natural Resource Management. I am currently writing my master thesis, in which I assess threats caused by marine aquaculture to the habitats of Blue Whales in the Chiloense Marine Ecoregion, Patagonia. The focus of this research is mapping current and future habitat risks, to this globally significant and threatened marine habitat. This project is under the supervision of Professor James Watson, Maria Jose Martinez-Harms, Hedley Grantham and Kendall Jones.