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About

History of Reef Biosearch

 

Reef Biosearch, the pioneering environmental division of the Quicksilver Group, was founded in March 1986 – in an era before the term “ecotourism” was even spawned.

Originally the brainchild of marine biologist Wendy Morris, Reef Biosearch’s aim from day one has been to combine tourism, education and research. In the early days, this was by way of providing an educational slideshow to passengers and chatting to them about the reef. All these years later our guiding philosophy remains the same; environmental awareness and conservation starts with education.

Today, the Reef Biosearch team of over 20 university educated marine biologists, and Master Reef Guides, spans the company’s Port Douglas and Cairns based tourism operations. While we focus on research, conservation and education initiatives as core operational objectives, the team are  dedicated to turning the ocean into an engaging classroom, educating guests about this magnificent watery wonderland. Education is also a powerful conservation tool and we hope that each and every visitor leaves us as ambassadors for reef protection.

Newspaper cutout titled "Entering the age of the educated tourist" from 13 October, 1986

Significantly, Reef Biosearch has the longest logbook database of marine observations on the Great Barrier Reef, ongoing since 1986. This information allows scientists to observe trends and changes in the marine environment and to allow the Quicksilver Group to manage our site usage to preserve our environment. This database evolved into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) Eye on the Reef monitoring program and has proven to now be one of the most important site stewardship actions for many marine operators throughout the GBRMP.

Reef Biosearch continues to be involved in leading and collaborative research; from investigating mitigation measures for coral bleaching through to reef restoration and nurturing projects.

Reef Biosearch also acts as an environmental watchdog, ensuring best practices and sustainability.

You can join the Reef Biosearch marine biologists aboard our range of reef trips. See the reef with informed eyes, ask those questions you’ve always wanted to know and become a reef ambassador!

Our Team

Manager Reef Biosearch

Russell

Russell grew up in suburban Sydney, but always knew that the city wasn’t for him.

Russell grew up in suburban Sydney, but always knew that the city wasn’t for him. His early biological career took him to remote locations such as the NSW Highlands tracking red belly blacksnakes, Mt Kosciusko in winter studying torpor in echidnas and the tropical savannah and wetlands of Kakadu, NT, conducting population and sexual dimorphism studies on frill neck lizards, file snakes and water pythons with the Sydney University’s Wildlife Unit.

After travelling around Australia, Russell moved to FNQ to work for Reef Biosearch in 1989, settling in Port Douglas “It was the first place I’d been to that felt like home”. It was a fantastic time in Port, with the eclectic community rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous (the days before mobile phones!) “Meeting some of my heroes like David Bellamy, David Suzuki and Jean-Michel Cousteau has certainly been some of the highlights of my biological career!”

After an unfortunately “too close” encounter with an Irukandji jellyfish in 1994, Russell found a new group of animals to study. “I spent 4 days in intensive care with my heart not working properly and my lung collapsed, and not really knowing what was going on, only that I hurt like hell. It was only after I left hospital that I realised how close I’d come to dying”. One of his fellow workers brought in a scientific article on Irukandji jellyfish to read whilst he recuperated, and he quickly developed a passion to find out everything he could about these animals so that other people wouldn’t have to suffer like he did.

Working with the Australian Venom Unit, Russell forged a vital role in capturing specimens to send down for taxonomy and venom research (resulting in him being stung and hospitalised again, but that’s another story!). The work so far has resulted in the discovery of several new species (one of which was rated in the top 10 greatest scientific discoveries of 2006), inventing the sampling nets that the lifeguards still use today along FNQ beaches, and the development of the lycra suit that all marine operators use in the tropics. Russell has also served on the State Government Irukandji Taskforce and is now a recognised expert in the field.

Russell has been Manager of Reef Biosearch since 2001, and is most proud of being part of his staff’s development and watching them move on into all kinds of careers and spreading the word of the importance of preserving our marine environments.

Marine Biologist, Master Reef Guide

Dr Glen

After receiving his Ph.D. in Zoology in 1984 Glen took up a position as a Research Fellow for the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Marine Biologist Ph.D. in Zoology

After receiving his Ph.D. in Zoology in 1984 Glen took up a position as a Research Fellow for the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. Based in Cairns, his research focused on the population ecology and reproductive biology of sea snakes. Glen commenced a long association with Quicksilver as one of our Marine Biologists in 1989, an association which he enjoys to this day.

Over the past 40 years Glen has traveled extensively, sailing across the Pacific and back again, another year sailing across the Indian Ocean from Thailand to Madagascar, another year in South America and another in South East Asia. Glen lived and worked in Florida for 5 years teaching Marine Biology and Environmental Science, and for 12 years he taught the Tropical Marine Science Program for Long Island University bringing American university students to Australia to study the ecology of the Great Barrier Reef. He has lectured at the University of Long Island in New York and is the author of several scientific articles.

During his extensive travels Glen has sought to gain a perspective on human impacts affecting tropical marine ecosystems around the world. His work aims to help conserve coral reefs by examining sustainable uses for coral reef systems and then promoting the adoption of these practices through education. Glen is passionate supporter of educational eco-tourism and was selected to be in the first cohort of the Master Reef Guides Program developed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in 2018. Glen has been a leader in the development and expansion of Quicksilver’s Coral Nurture programme, propogating heat tolerant corals in an effort to increase the resilience of our local coral reefs to climate change. These days he continues his work as one of Quicksilver’s team of onboard Marine Biologists and although he is “heading towards retirement” he reckons “why stop, when you’re having fun!”

Marine Biologist

Heather

Growing up on the northwest coast of the US, I didn’t have tropical reefs in my backyard. Instead, there was a resident population of orcas, and I became obsessed with learning about them as a child.

“Growing up on the northwest coast of the US, I didn’t have tropical reefs in my backyard. Instead, there was a resident population of orcas, and I became obsessed with learning about them as a child. My introduction to conservation and activism hit movie screens in 1993 with a film called Free Willy, and my affinity for orcas grew into a desire to protect the ocean and to one day become a marine biologist.”

Studying in Western Washington, Heather received her degree in 2007 and began working as a Naturalist for a whale-watching operator and the Education Director for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Between seal rehabilitation and performing necropsies (animal autopsies) on whales, you could find her guest lecturing in classrooms and public venues. In 2010, she joined the organisation Dolphin Project to help research and document dolphin hunting and the live capture trade. Her travels abroad eventually led her to Australia, to explore the Great Barrier Reef.

“I was so mesmerised by the reef that I’ve stayed, working on or alongside the GBR since 2012. These days, along with working at Quicksilver, I’m also on the Education Committee for the Society for Marine Mammalogy. Education is one of my core passions, and my favourite part of being a reef guide is seeing the excitement people get when learning about the varied marine life. Importantly, my own education continues as well, most recently studying Antarctic and climate science at the University of Tasmania.”

Marine Biologist

Jade

Growing up in Western Australia, Jade was always fascinated by the ocean and its incredible biodiversity.

Growing up in Western Australia, Jade was always fascinated by the ocean and its incredible biodiversity. Her curiosity and love for the marine environment only deepened, as she spent countless hours searching tide pools, observing marine creatures, and learning about their behaviours. She was drawn to the idea of exploring and protecting the fragile ecosystems that existed beneath the waves.
This passion led her to pursue a career in marine biology where she completed multiple studies at the Fremantle Maritime Training College and James Cook University. She has had the privilege of working with various organisations and research teams throughout her career, gaining a solid foundation in educating, conserving and raising awareness about the importance of our oceans.
Today, as a marine biologist, Jade feels privileged to be able to contribute to the preservation of these precious ecosystems and to inspire others to care for our oceans as much as she does!
Marine Biologist

Megan

Meg has spent 10+ years working in marine research, science education and eco-tourism in the US and Australia.

Meg has spent 10+ years working in marine research, science education and eco-tourism in the US and Australia. After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Biology in the US, her passion for coastal environment led her to Florida where she saw the immense value of hands-on learning while working in environmental education. Since moving to Australia, she has worked as a Marine Biologist and led coral ecology field courses on the Great Barrier Reef, created interactive visitor programs for Tasmania Parks and Wildlife, assisted in e-DNA research on Ningaloo Reef, and led projects to remove & prevent marine debris in Far North Queensland.

More recently, Meg completed a Master’s degree in Marine Science examining the growth rates of corals growing in high-latitudes (cool water). She also works with James Cook University, assisting in mapping and monitoring seafloor habitats along the Great Barrier Reef and northern Australia. Meg has a true passion for the Great Barrier Reef and takes great pleasure in creating one-in-a-lifetime experiences with guests on the largest, most biodiverse Reef on the planet!

Marine Biologist, Master Reef Guide

Lucy-Rose

Lucy has always had a strong love for the ocean, but the experience of visiting a sea turtle conservation site in Vanuatu encouraged her to study Marine and Conservation Science at university.

Lucy has always had a strong love for the ocean, but the experience of visiting a sea turtle conservation site in Vanuatu encouraged her to study Marine and Conservation Science at university. Through her studies she participated in tagging and monitoring nesting sea turtles in Papua New Guinea, and is an advocate for marine conservation in all that she does.

She also has a strong background in marine mammal science, having published a paper on humpback whales genetics from Ningaloo Reef, and having worked as a whale/dolphin watching tour guide in Broome. Since working on the Great Barrier Reef, Lucy loves the variety in marine life she gets to experience every day and loves to share her enthusiasm for the marine environment with others. She hopes to continue conducting surveys of reef health for marine parks and aims to inspire others to care for their marine environment.

Marine Biologist, Master Reef Guide

Alicia

Alicia has loved all things ocean since she was five years old, when she received a book on marine sea creatures for Christmas.

BSc Marine Biology Marine Science (Honours)

Alicia has loved all things ocean since she was five years old, when she received a book on marine sea creatures for Christmas. She fell in love with learning about marine life and has wanted to be a Marine Biologist ever since! Alicia went on to study Marine Biology at Deakin University in Warrnambool, braving the chilly Southern Ocean waters, but it was a study abroad exchange to Hawaii that she really fell in love with tropical environments, especially the importance of coral reef systems. Alicia completed her Honours in Marine Science at Murdoch University in Perth, and from her research she found how important marine interpretation and education was for the general public.
Alicia has been working on the Great Barrier Reef for Quicksilver Cruises since 2019, and she really enjoys talking to the various visitors that come to the reef. She finds that no matter how far or wide people have travelled, people really do want to learn more about the health and state of the reef and she takes great pride and joy in educating and informing everyone that passes through her tour on the importance of the reef, and how they can make a difference.

Marine Biologist, Master Reef Guide

Hayley

Hayley fell in love with the Great Barrier Reef the first time see saw it. Her first visit to the Great Barrier Reef was on board Quicksilver Cruises in Port Douglas at just 7 years old.

MSc Marine Biology

Hayley fell in love with the Great Barrier Reef at the young age of seven. Her first visit to the Great Barrier Reef was on board Quicksilver Cruises in Port Douglas. This sparked overwhelming emotions leaving her with an unforgettable ‘mermaid like’ buzz. Growing up the feeling never left; inspiring Hayley to complete a Masters Degree in Marine Biology and become a published scientist.
Hayley is a part-time mermaid with Quicksilver Cruises, travelling to Quicksilver’s pontoon at Agincourt Reef and Low Isles off Port Douglas. The same Reefs that inspired her life story. Full-time, Hayley is a researcher with Tropwater based at James Cook University monitoring the health of seagrass meadows along the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Marine Monitoring Program.
“Every day, I am still amazed by the Reef’s natural beauty. Every day, I am still curious to learn more. The mermaid-buzz never disappears when your office is the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. I feel incredible lucky to work on the Great Barrier Reef, and will forever want to protect it.”

Marine Biologist

Ben

Ben’s first book was a fish Identification book and he has been somewhat obsessed with all things aquatic ever since.

Ben’s first book was a fish Identification book and he has been somewhat obsessed with all things aquatic ever since. A childhood that involved attempts at snorkelling in the bathtub and annoying all with fish talk has now turned into a career with lots of snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and annoying all with fish talk. After a BSc in Marine Biology and Environmental Science at James Cook University, Ben has worked as a Marine Biologist, Expedition Leader and Education Officer and loves looking after people whilst exploring the environment. Ben has mostly been found lurking on or under the waters near Port Douglas since 1999, and has spent enough time hanging out with fish they may now think of him as one of their own kind.
Manager Reef Biosearch - Cairns, Master Reef Guide

Phil

For as long as Phil can remember, the world below the surface of the water has fascinated him.

Cairns BSc (1st Class Honours) Marine Biology Master Reef Guide
PADI Dive Master Coxswain Grade 2

For as long as Phil can remember, the world below the surface of the water has fascinated him. As a child growing up in Cairns, it was not a surprise that Phil’s love and fascination for the underwater world would eventually steer his life down the path of Marine Biology. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science from James Cook University. His early years of employment included a Curatorial role at an Oceanarium along with various tour guide roles out of Cairns and Port Douglas.
Then in 2001, Phil was appointed the Operations Manager for The Dolphin Discovery Centre, a Marine Conservation organisation with a focus on the lives of a wild population of Bottlenose Dolphins in Bunbury, Western Australia.
The Centre provided an amazing opportunity for Phil to continue his enthusiasm for tour guiding through a number of interactive dolphin experiences, however the development of the Centre’s research, education and conservation initiatives was by far the motivation that kept him employed there for almost 20 years.
Since he returned home to Cairns in 2019, Phil has re-connected with the Great Barrier Reef and now heads the Reef Biosearch team of marine biologists for the Quicksilver Group’s Cairns reef experiences.

Marine Biologist, Master Reef Guide

Bekki

Bekki grew up on a farm in country Victoria, very far from the ocean, but was obsessed with all marine life from a very young age.

Bachelor of Environmental Science (Marine Biology)
Deakin University Post Graduate Diploma of Tropical Marine Biology, James Cook University Townsville.

Hi, I’m Bekki, one of the marine biologists working for Great Adventures here in Cairns. I grew up on a farm in country Victoria, very far from the ocean, but I was always obsessed with all marine life from a very young age. During high school, I completed work experience at the Melbourne Aquarium, and this solidified my dream to be a marine biologist as I wanted to teach people about the ocean.

I completed a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Marine Biology) at Deakin University in Warrnambool Victoria. I spent the summer of 2012-2013 working for a dive shop in Queenscliff, Victoria where even in summer I was diving in cold waters and I decided to move to warmer weather at Townsville to complete a Post Graduate Diploma of Tropical Marine Biology at James Cook University.

I have spent many years doing various volunteering and internships around the world; from working with Great White sharks in South Africa, to marine conservation and coral restoration work in Mauritius. For 5 years I was working and living in Maldives as a resident marine biologist for a luxury resort doing a variety of daily activities from snorkelling and diving, coral restoration, turtle and manta ray ID, educational presentations and assisting in the turtle rehabilitation centre. Even though I got to experience the dream of living on a tropical island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, I was being pulled back to home soil as the Great Barrier Reef was calling. Ever since I learnt to dive in Cairns at the age of 15, I always dreamt of working on the GBR and calling FNQ home.

I joined the Reef Biosearch team at Great Adventures towards the end of 2022 and instantly fell in love with the role. I love being able to meet people from all over the world and connect with them over a love for the ocean or introduce them to the underwater world for the very first time. I have the opportunity to inspire people to become ocean ambassadors and fall in love with the big blue and all the creatures that call it home.

Since being with the Reef Biosearch team I have been very lucky to be selected into the 7th Cohort of Master Reef Guides with GBRMPA. I was also selected as 2024 QLD Young Tourism Leader where I have the privilege of helping inspire younger generations of children to start an exciting career within QLD tourism.

In my role as Marine Education Coordinator I get to to work with schools from within Queensland, Australia and even internationally at our Green Island Living Classroom, and introduce them to one the seven natural wonders and one of our very own UNESCO World Heritage sites and explaining the importance coral reefs have all over the world.

I feel immense joy in collaborating with a group of fellow ocean enthusiasts who share my passion of educating others about the wonders of the ocean.

Marine Biologist, Master Reef Guide

Anthony

Anthony is from Wellington, New Zealand where he studied Marine Biology at Victoria University.

BSc Marine Biology and Statistics

Anthony is from Wellington, New Zealand where he studied Marine Biology at Victoria University. He started working for Great Adventures in June 2022 and by October 2022 he became one of only 150 Master Reef Guides working on the Great Barrier Reef. His love for the ocean and the natural world spans many years. He has worked with a number of volunteer organisations, ranging from working with elephants in Thailand to sea turtles with the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. His passion and enthusiasm shows through with his guiding and presentation and he is appreciative of his opportunity to educate people from all walks of life, something that he is truly interested in.

Marine Biologist

Gabrielle

Gabi is originally from South Australia and after finishing studies in Marine Biology, moved to Cairns.

BSc Marine Biology Lifeguard
swim teacher

Gabi is originally from South Australia and after finishing studies in Marine Biology, moved to Cairns in Tropical North Queensland to pursue her dream of working on the Great Barrier Reef.

“I’ve always loved the ocean, and I hope to educate and inspire others to help protect it!”

Marine Biologist

Desirée

Desirée is from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada where she studied marine biology at the University of Regina.

Bachelor of Science Marine Biology
PADI Divemaster

Desirée is from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada where she studied marine biology at the University of Regina. “ What I love about the ocean is its vast power, mystery and symbioses. When you're diving or simply snorkelling, you're immersed in a completely different world that can spark every type of emotion: joy, peace, curiosity, even fear. It's an ecosystem that makes you feel truly alive and highlights how small human beings are compared to the ecosystems in which we inhabit. Furthermore, I love the thousands of symbiotic relationships that can be observed, even in the most unlikely pairs. These relationships are a reminder that evolution favours teamwork and unity. I believe this is a beautiful analogy for how human beings should work with the earth and each other. “

Marine Biologist

Teresa

My name is Teresa! I am a passionate biologist and dive instructor that came all the way from Chile.

My name is Teresa! I am a passionate biologist and dive instructor that came all the way from Chile. I discovered my love for nature, animals and the ocean when I was just a little kid. When I arrived at the Great Barrier Reef it felt like home. I really believe that getting closer to nature is the path that will lead us to protect it, so sharing my passion about the reef is a dream came true, as well as helping people to feel comfortable in the water so they can enjoy every single detail of the beautiful great barrier reef.
Marine Biologist, PhD

Dr John

I moved to Cairns to work in marine biology from a background in tissue mechanics and cell and molecular biology at the University of Queensland.

I moved to Cairns to work in marine biology from a background in tissue mechanics and cell and molecular biology at the University of Queensland. Since moving to Australia in 2019, I’ve enjoyed spending time exploring and learning about the underwater world through snorkelling and diving. Working on the Great Barrier Reef provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase the wonderful diversity of marine life, as well as highlight the challenges it faces, to many people both local to and visiting FNQ. By conducting various surveys, we also play an important role in reef monitoring and preservation; keeping the reef healthy for future generations to enjoy.
Marine Biologist

Cara

Cara has an undergrad in Marine Biology, a Masters in Natural Resource Management but more importantly a deep passion for all things reef related.

Cara has an undergrad in Marine Biology, a Masters in Natural Resource Management but more importantly a deep passion for all things reef related. She is happiest when sharing her passion for the beautiful ocean with others: even better if she can do that with a survey or camera in hand! Some of her favourite marine life includes anything tiny like nudibranchs, but also manta rays and sharks. She grew up in Scotland and New Zealand, so like many of our team comes with an interesting accent. However, after finding the Great Barrier Reef and FNQ she proudly calls Cairns home.