Ella at Casey Station in Antarctica

Ella Clausius

Lead Reefsearcher

PhD Candidate, Reef Ecology
Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies,
University of Tasmania

Growing up I always wanted to work at NASA. Not as an astronaut, but as one of those behind-the-scenes scientists at Mission Control – the ones sitting behind rows of computers, headsets on, a large display of the mission-at-hand projected on a big screen in front of them and, my favourite bit, who all stand up and applaud when the mission they’ve dedicated their working lives to finally pays off. What a thrill!

But my interest in working for NASA faded as I got older, so instead I went to university to study an environment almost as remote and hostile as Outer Space – the Antarctic.

Four years later, a university degree in Antarctic Science in hand, I was given the incredible opportunity to finally go to Antarctica on-board Australia’s ice breaker, the RSV Aurora Australis. Picture 7 weeks of icebergs, penguins, whales, and science!

When I touched down on solid ground again, I started working for a science organisation called Reef Life Survey (RLS). Reef Life Survey trains everyday SCUBA divers in scientific methods for recording marine life underwater. These divers then go out and apply these methods on their local reefs, collecting information on the marine life they encounter that can be used by scientists (like me) to track how the health of Australia’s reefs changes through time.

After three years of working with RLS, I was ready to get back into research, but now, instead of studying Antarctica, my focus has shifted toward the colourful world of reefs. My project uses the data collected by RLS divers to explore how the health of reefs around the world changes because of environmental and human impacts, like changing ocean temperatures and fishing.

When I’m not in the field collecting more data, I’m looking at patterns in the data I’ve got – sitting in front of a computer, headphones in, exploring graphs and statistics to figure out how and why Australia’s reefs are changing, and applauding myself when the research I’m dedicating my working life to finally pays off – my very own form of Mission Control.


Follow Ella on Twitter: @ellaclausius