Chantel Elston

I’m one of those lucky people who have always known what I wanted to do in life. Even at the tender age of six, just as I was starting school, I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist when I grew up. I can’t even remember who first told me what a marine biologist does, but I’m sure whoever it was did so because my passion for the ocean has always been obvious.

Perhaps this obsession with the big blue developed from my dad’s love of sailing or from spending countless days at the beach all through my childhood while he volunteered for the National Sea Rescue Institute. My holidays were filled with exploring tidal pools, jumping from rock to rock and squinting into the shallow water in search of elusive starfish or sea anemones. My heart still skips a beat every time I see the shimmery blue surface of the ocean and even today one of my favourite pastimes involves peering into rocky crevices to find out what lurks beneath the waters.

After school I was fortunate enough to follow this passion by completing my undergraduate and honours studies in marine biology at the University of Cape Town and it was during these years that I was able to refine my enthusiasm – the ocean contains a wealth of information and at some stage or other you have to choose which aspect you want to focus on. My interest in rays and skates was sparked in my second year when we were going through an ichthyology module. I will always remember the lecturer telling us that rays and skates were the least studied group of vertebrates at that time. This got my curiosity ticking and ever since then I’ve wanted to learn more about these charismatic creatures.