Rachel Graham
Rachel and an old friend, Caribbean reef shark in Belize Author: R. Miskiv
2023

Rachel Graham

Marine Conservation Scientist

shaping the seas

meet rachel

Dr. Rachel Graham is an award-winning shark conservation scientist focused on community-based research and exploration, building local resilience, leadership, and stewardship. She is the founder and director of the international non-profit MarAlliance, with over 30 years living in Central America and experience in development, environment and marine projects in Latin America, Africa, and Oceania. Her leadership in 70+ expeditions globally has changed attitudes towards species such as sharks and both consumer and fishing behaviours. A passionate and creative visionary with demonstrated entrepreneurial success and innovation, Dr. Graham seeks win-win solutions to reverse marine biodiversity loss and leave a legacy of thriving shark populations.

shaping the seas
Nominated by: Milbry Polk MED'95
Class of 2023 Location Panama
Rachel 3D filming fish having sex in Panama
Rachel 3D filming fish having sex in Panama Author: R. Miskiv, MarAlliance

My approach has fostered a more holistic compassionate conservation ethos, now widely replicated globally. I have innovated research (remote telemetry work and novel analytical approaches) and monitoring methods (fisher-led, low-cost, and easy to apply standardized methods for cross site comparison) that have become standards. This approach has democratized science and exploration and led to joint discoveries of new species, new behaviors and processes that include and value local knowledge on fish behaviour, populations, fisheries, and effective management methods. The building of relationships, trust, and valuation of all knowledge sources over these past 25 years has strengthened traditional fisher voices, who advocate more confidently for their future and for community youth to view the sea to grow a purposeful career.

“That many of my cohorts of next-gen conservationists are young women, who buck tradition and culture to take on a new professional mantle, formerly the near exclusive domain of men, further fills me with pride and hope for the future of our seas.”

- Rachel Graham
Rachel training Reina Cruz in fisheries landings methods in Panama
Rachel training Reina Cruz in fisheries landings methods in Panama Author: MarAlliance

Exploration is only satisfying if you can share it meaningfully with others, then support others to lead in discoveries. I delight in shaping a growing cohort of local researchers and marine managers who now incite awe of and pride for sharks in their countries. That many of my cohorts of next-gen conservationists are young women, who buck tradition and culture to take on a new professional mantle, formerly the near exclusive domain of men, further fills me with pride and hope for the future of our seas. Twenty years ago, Dr. Heidi Dewar and I wrote down all the women we knew conducting shark field research: 14 names globally. When we pared it down to those in a relationship and/or those juggling work with children: it was only us two. We made it part of our mission to change this statistic and have inspired a generation of young women to explore, work in the field and raise a family. I envision the rewilding of our seas one building block at a time, cemented with the wonder of exploration and discovery, and the nurturing of local talents and leadership to ensure continuity of stewardship for the sea and its fish for generations to come.

Author: Peter Bohler

there are 49 other visionary explorers

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