ABOUT FABRICE'S SCIENTIFIC WORK...
Q: In a nutshell, how would you describe your scientific work?
A: Over the years I have developed strong interest in animal ecology, wildlife conservation, animal tracking, population monitoring, biophysical oceanography and ecological modelling. More specifically, my research work aims to help better understand how wild, free ranging animals utilise their habitat, as well as how environmental variability and anthropogenic activities may influence their behaviour.
Q: What do you want to accomplish through your scientific work?
A: The natural world is just full of mystery. It fascinates me. As a kid I used to spend hours observing fish and other animals do their thing, and wondered what was actually going on in their minds. I guess it is that innate curiosity that set a goal in me to unravel the mysteries behind their silent lives. Gradually I started working on the impacts of climate change on animals and later threatened species. It is at this stage that I became really involved in conservation. Knowing how important the natural world, and especially the oceans, are on this planet and seeing how fast we are exploiting them without much restraint or awareness deeply concerns me. I simply want to help people care as much as I do.
Q: What areas of scientific research interest you most?
A: During my PhD I developed a particular interest for marine species that depend on the open ocean for food. Because resources tend to be sparse in the open ocean, most of these marine predators will have developed specific behavioural strategies to find prey and optimise energy budgets. Insights into how these species live have only started to emerge with recent technological advances and thus there are still many aspects of their lives that remain unknown or misunderstood.
I am also fascinated by wildlife telemetry equipment and how this technology is rapidly advancing. Over the years animal-borne data loggers and cameras have helped prying into the intimate lives of wildlife and unraveled some fascinating life history traits ranging from deep-sea excursions through to trans-oceanic migrations, feeding mechanics and social behaviour in marine species, or even the use of tools in some birds! Every day new advances in this field help unravel additional aspects of the lives of wild animals.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I was born and raised in southern France, on the Mediterranean coastline, where I became fascinated with the marine realm and nature in general from an early age. I instinctively embarked on a career that would allow me to satisfy my scientific curiosity and to contribute to the protection of natural resources.
After studying Ecology and Environmental Science at the Euro-American Institute of Technology (now SKEMA Bachelors) in the south of France, I transferred to the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia. By 2008, I had graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Science (EAI Tech, France) and a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours (Marine Biology & Ecology majors, UQ, Australia).
Keen to broaden my experiences and spend some time in the field, I went on to complete a five-month internship at the South African Marine Predator Lab (now Oceans Research), researching the great white shark – an experience that changed my life. There, I re-discovered sharks and decided to dedicate my life to educating others about their plight.
It was at this stage that I was invited to return to Australia as a PhD candidate and join UQ’s Project Manta, a multi-disciplinary research program aimed at exploring most aspects of the lives of east Australian manta rays. Another experience that changed my life! Upon the successful completion of my PhD in 2013, I became involved on a volunteer basis with the Marine Megafauna Foundation, a not-for-profit based in Mozambique, where I pursued my research on the movement ecology of manta rays and the implications for their conservation.
In 2015 I started working for Customized Animal Tracking Solutions, a fast-growing wildlife telemetry manufacturer based in Germany & Australia. There I acquired in-depth knowledge of multi-sensor telemetry systems, from assembling circuitry through to designing floats, attachments and release systems. The telemetry units we built were unique in that they integrated one (sometimes several) high-resolution video cameras, thus allowing researchers to link patterns in the sensor data to visual observations of the animal's behaviour. This led to several very exciting projects where I consulted for the BBC, helping scientists to deploy these 'CATScams' onto various marine animals to record previously-undocumented behaviours.
In late 2016 I joined the Sydney Institute of Marine Science as Science & Data Officer for the Animal Tracking Facility of Australia's Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS). Here, I coordinate the collection and sharing of acoustic animal tracking data from over 2,500 receivers deployed all around Australia to monitor movements and changes in distributions of marine species.