Hannah Rudd - From Whale Sharks to NGO's

It’s safe to say Hannah Rudd is one ambitious marine scientist! From shark conservation to launching her own NGO, she has a lot to offer and can’t wait to share her experiences with our readers!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a marine biologist and science communicator, specialising in shark science. Currently I’m studying MSc Marine Environmental Management at the University of York, with my research focusing on whale sharks in the Maldives and great whites in South Africa. Soon I’ll be joining the South African Shark Conservancy team for the Women in Shark Science internship scheme and I’m hoping to start a PhD in 2020.

Alongside my studies, I’m a wildlife writer and the Digital Content Editor for New Nature Magazine. I’m extremely enthusiastic about science communication, which has led me to run environmental outreach events for postgraduates at my university, and start an interview series called Leading Women in Marine Science.

It sounds like you have a lot to look forward to! So, you’ve built your life around the ocean, what drew you to it in the first place?

The ocean has always felt like an intrinsic part of me. Growing up, I watched Shark Week with my dad every year, and dreamt of studying these impressive animals in the wild. When I first saw great white sharks in the flesh at Dyer Island in South Africa, it ignited a fire within me to protect the species, and wider ecosystem- so much so that I’m heading back there for my MSc research!

I’m an inquisitive and adventurous person at heart, so the mystery of exploring the final frontier of our planet has always been attractive to me. Our oceans provide us with a plethora of ecosystem services, so educating people on the importance of protecting the oceans incredibly diverse ecosystems, is something close to my heart.

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What does a day in your life look like?

Everyday is different and depends whether I’m at University, in the field, or at home. An average day at University involves answering emails, attending research seminars, and reading scientific papers, as well as writing for my blog in my spare time.

Recently, I’ve returned from an internship with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme, who I am now collaborating with for one of my MSc dissertations. During my time in the Maldives the average day involved getting on the dhoni (a traditional Maldivian boat) from around 8am, and patrolling the South Ari Atoll Marine Protected Area searching for whale sharks. In the evenings we upload the data from the day, and hopefully ID the whale sharks we had encountered during our patrol. All very exciting stuff!

It sounds like you’re very passionate about conservation. How do you hope your voice and work will influence others?

There are so many incredible people working in marine conservation with similar goals to educate and influence others of the marine environment, and the importance of protecting it. My mission is to contribute to the successful movement and increase the voice of our ocean further.

The best ‘ocean activism’ discussions, if you will, that you can have are when you randomly start talking with a stranger about the value of our oceans, and that makes an impact on their life, no matter how big or small.

Who or what do you draw your inspiration from?

People and our ocean are my biggest inspirations. Sharks to me, are the most fascinating creatures in the ocean. They’re so misunderstood and yet play such a crucial role within marine ecosystems, inspiring me to change the public’s perception of them.

Melissa Cristina Marquez, Jillian Morris-Brake, Meaghen McCord, and Dr. Andrea Marshall are just some of my shark heroes who I continually look to for inspiration. I’m constantly surrounded by inspiring people in my MSc course, who will go on to do amazing work in their fields.

Which ocean species is on your bucket list to see?

Ahh, so many! I would love to see basking sharks, tiger sharks, scalloped hammerheads and shortfin mako sharks. I want to see a sawfish too, and a blue whale, ocean sunfish and leatherback turtle… It would’ve been easier if I just said everything!

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What is one thing you wish someone had told you a long time ago?

That you don’t have to be a robot to be successful, and it’s necessary to take time for yourself to be a productive human-being.

I’m a people pleaser, and heck, I love my work, so it’s really difficult for me to turn stuff down! It got to a point where my quality of life and mental health drastically subsided because I was constantly working, so my whole life pretty much came to a standstill. Now, I still never say no to a project, but if I have a lot to do, I try to rearrange so I can still be sane throughout the whole thing!

What does the future hold for you? Is there anything you are working towards now?

I have so many aspirations it’s hard to keep count! They all have the same aim of improving education and awareness of marine conservation issues with the hope of further driving positive change.

At the moment I’m putting together a book proposal, and also working to launch Leading Women in Marine Science as a non-governmental organisation with the focus of giving women a platform to share their work. In the future, I would love to launch an eco-friendly brand with some of the profits benefiting marine conservation. I’d also love to lead dive expeditions and run marine summer camps for kids.

Documentary production, which would combine my love for marine conservation and the media, is another goal of mine, as well as investigative journalism for illegal wildlife trades.

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If you want to follow Hannah, and see the amazing things she’ll be doing in the future, you can find her on Instagram @hannahandthesea, and on her blog www.hannahrudd.com