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Ocean Minds presents Ellis Moloney

Profession: PhD Student in Biological Sciences

Organisation: University of Plymouth, UK.

Ellis inspires me with his determination and hard work to pursue the realm of research. He has always encouraged me to go after what I want and is always the first person to offer me a hand and motivate me when I doubt myself.

1. How did we meet?

We met during our undergraduate degree in marine biology at the University of Portsmouth, UK.

2. What is one memorable ocean moment from our time together?

It has to be the second-year field trip to Devon. A week of doing field work in the sun… what more do you need!

3. What encouraged you to purse a career in marine biology/conservation?

Believe it or not, the reason why I got into marine biology is partly down to Spongebob Squarepants. I was obsessed with the show as a kid and the creator, Stephen Hillenburg, was also a marine biologist. Combine this with regular holidays to Cornwall, UK, where my family would take me rock pooling around the coast, a career in marine biology was obviously destined for me! (ps. I now have a SpongeBob tattoo on my arm as an homage).

4. How did you land your current job?

I landed my role as a PhD student with a lot of hard work and even more luck. PhD’s are very competitive, and I had failed to get an interview for at least 4 projects. So, I decided to do some voluntary research and gain more experience. I then applied for the project I am doing now, got an interview which went very well but I was ultimately rejected over another candidate. However, that candidate decided to drop out and they decided to offer it to me!

5. What is it about your role that makes you feel like you are truly making a difference?

The applications of my work are what keeps me motivated. I am trying to discover the genes that allow tiny organisms called tardigrades and rotifers to live in the most extreme environments on the planet. The hope is that we can take these genes and transplant them into less tolerant species to help them battle against climate change.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring ocean warriors?

Never let anyone tell you that you aren’t smart enough to achieve your dreams. I failed high school maths and was told by my teachers that I wasn’t academic enough to have a career in science…I have now done more research than most of those teachers combined. Also, engage with ‘proactive serendipity’. This just means that you should strive to put yourself in a position where you might be lucky. Interested in someone’s research? e-mail them and see if they have any opportunities, you never know what might happen.

7. What has been your most unforgettable experience in the ocean and why?

Snorkelling in the Mediterranean. I had taken a trip to Rhodes and went on a random boat trip to another island nearby. The boat stopped to let us swim and when I went under the water, I was greeted with miles of seagrass beds, I had never seen so many social fish before in my life!

8. Who has inspired you to achieve your goals?

A career in science can be very unforgiving at times. Having my friends and family support me when I wanted to quit is the main reason why I am doing a PhD today.

9. What do you hope to achieve in the future?

I am not sure what the future holds yet. I am very passionate about science communication and would love to work in the media if I ever get tired of doing research. Either way, I want to make sure that I am always teaching people!


I would like to give a bit more advice to young aspiring students and scientists that might be reading this. As you go through your career, try your best to never compare yourself to others. Everyone learns things at different speeds and you will have skills that others don’t. And remember, it’s okay to feel stupid… you will struggle to find an academic that doesn’t feel stupid on a daily basis!

You can follow more of Ellis and his work on Twitter

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