Madeline Green is a force to be reckoned with. She's not only a PhD candidate (doing shark science and molecular ecology), but she is one of the co-founders of Otlet. When asked why they named their business that, she answered, "The name Otlet is actually pretty interesting. Paul Otlet is a really famous Belgium scientist who was around in the early 1900s. He believed in organizing the worlds knowledge to make it accessible for everyone. He’s known as the entrepreneur of knowledge and really he thought up the idea of the Internet well before its time! Have a google about him, his story is so interesting and there is a museum of his work in Belgium called the Mundaneum. In homage and respect to him, his vision and his legacy we named our company Otlet." How brilliant is that?! Want to learn more about what Otlet is and other facts (like, about her research)? Join us below!
The Fins United Initiative: Were you always interested in pursuing a career in science?
Madeline Green: I always enjoyed science classes and I loved going out fishing with my dad. I spent most of my summers fishing on the Murray River for cod. I wanted to pursue a career that would make me happy and since I loved animals, the water and fish I thought becoming a marine biologist would be perfection.
TFUI: So were you always enamored with sharks or did that fascination come later in life?
MG: After coming to the realisation I wanted to be a marine biologist I knew I would have to focus on a specific group of animals or an ecosystem. I was watching a documentary about sharks and I remember thinking how beautiful they were. I’ve always respected them and I believe they are very misunderstood. So I decided at that point I would try and become a shark researcher. I come from a small country town in Victoria, Australia. This is 3 hours away from the nearest ocean; so many people thought I was crazy for wanting to be a marine biologist. It also meant I had never seen a shark.
TFUI: What was your first encounter?
MG: The first time I saw a shark I would have been 20 or 21. My friend had caught one and we brought it alongside the boat (to remove the hook and release it). I remember thinking how white it’s underside was and how incredible it looked how strong it was! It is one of my favourite memories.
TFUI: Can you tell us a little bit about the research you currently do? Elaborate a little bit on what you do as a molecular ecologist for those TFUI readers who have no idea.
MG: Very simply, I look at how related sharks are around the Indo-Pacific Ocean, I assess if they move between locations like Papua New Guinea and Australia. As a molecular ecologist I primarily work in the field of ‘population genetics’, this means I look at the DNA from each individual shark and I compare them to see if they are similar or dissimilar. You expect if populations are connected, their DNA is similar however if they are separated their DNA is different. Using this information I am able to define genetic population structures across broad regions. These populations are then use in collaboration with other techniques to understand how to appropriately manage populations of sharks.
TFUI: Why is your research important?
MG: My work is important because without an understanding of where our sharks move we cannot adequately manage populations. Given, sharks are apex predators and help maintain healthy ecosystems, its important to know if they are moving between countries, if they are being targeted by fisheries and how that might affect a population.
TFUI: You are co-founder of Otlet! Can you quickly tell TFUI readers what Otlet is/does?
MG: Otlet is a biological sample-sharing platform for research scientists. We help connect research institutes around the world to share biological samples taken out in the field. This helps scientists efficiently use biological samples and encourages more high quality research to be undertaken.
TFUI: What sparked the idea to create this amazing resource and how do you hope it grows?
MG: My friend and I created this platform because we understand that without a strong foundation of science, we cannot manage, protect and conserve species. We want to help scientists do good science, which in turn helps us all understand the natural world around us.
TFUI: What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
MG: I think its very important you work in a career you love, in something that your passionate about and something that challenges you to be the best version of yourself. Science is hard for a number of reasons, but its also incredibly rewarding. The greatest part about my job is knowing I am doing something that helps the world. I’m not here to “fix” the world, I’m here to understand it and teach people what I learn.
TFUI: Do you think people in your area have a good relationship with the ocean environment and sharks?
MG: It’s a bit of a mixed bag where I am from. People definitely have a strong affiliation with the ocean as fishing, diving, surfing and sailing are all common recreational activities. I think most people have a respectful relationship with sharks, but I also must remember the people I choose to be around are more likely to like sharks.
More generally, there often seems to be an opinion that we have ownership over beach areas and it is ‘our right’ to swim at them and interact with the ocean. However, I like to make the point- If you are in the Serengeti in Africa and you are walking around in long grass, most people wouldn’t be shocked if they were attacked by a lion, it is the same situation every time you enter the ocean. For whatever reason our fear of land predators is more present than our fear of ocean predators and while I don’t want people to be fearful I would love them to be more respectful. I think we need to consciously remember our safety is our own responsibility when choosing to enter the ocean.
TFUI: What’s next for you research-wise?
MG: Great question I wish I has a good answer! I’m finishing up my PhD thesis this year, I will then focus on getting Otlet launched and operating for many research institutes and then I guess I will be looking for new research projects. It’s an exciting time at this point in my career and I’m looking forward to moving and starting a new project.
THE FINS UNITED INITIATIVE WOULD LIKE TO THANK MADELINE FOR HER TIME AND
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
A proud #LatinainSTEM, Marquez is a marine biologist who focuses on shark habitat use and movements; she is also a science communicator (follow her on Twitter) who focuses on diverse Chondrichthyan education and who focuses on the media coverage of sharks. You can learn more about her on her website.