Educated in the United States and Australia, Andrea was the first person in the world to complete a PhD on manta rays. After completing her thesis in 2008, Andrea stayed on in Mozambique to spearhead the conservation efforts of this species along this remote coastline. Shortly after she, along with other members of her team, founded the Marine Megafauna Association, which grew into the now widely known Marine Megafauna Foundation. Her passionate commitment to the east African coast has shaped her goals as a conservation biologist. Vowing to dedicate her life to the preservation and management of the manta ray population in southern Mozambique, Andrea is continuing her campaign for their protection worldwide.
Almost a decade after her arrival, Andrea’s world-leading manta ray research program continues to examine aspects of their biology, reproductive ecology, habitat use, migrations and social behaviour. Aside from dramatically increasing the level of knowledge on manta rays themselves, Andrea’s discovery of a new giant species of manta ray in 2008 was one of the largest new species to have been described by any scientist in the last 50 years.
Learning to dive at a young age, Andrea was certified at the age of twelve. Thousands of dives later, Andrea dives for both pleasure and her profession, as one of the leading marine field biologists in southern Africa. During her 20-year dive career Andrea has travelled to the ends of the globe both as a scientist, researching sharks and rays, and also as a professional underwater photographer. She fell in love with photography at an early age and was taken under the wing of world-renowned underwater photographer and cinematographer Tom Campbell when she was just 16 years old. Years of mentoring deepened her appreciation of photography and prompted a lifelong affair with the art.
At the same time Andrea began exploring the world of technical diving and found it to be useful for both research and photography. Years later, she often uses her technical diving background to push the limits of her research in an effort to explore new habitats and remote locations.
As the chief scientist for MMF’s global manta ray program, Andrea continues to travel the globe researching manta rays and fighting for their protection. Her travels have taken her from Ecuador to Egypt and seemingly everywhere in between. Over the last 3-years Andrea has travelled to over a dozen countries on five continents as a part of her ”Ray of Hope” research expeditions. The primary goal of these expeditions has been to learn more about the habits of giant manta rays through a satellite-tagging program. Andrea also focuses on learning more about manta fisheries worldwide, and educating both scientists and the public about the threats facing the world’s largest species of ray.
Back home in Mozambique, Andrea is still exploring the coastline of one of eastern Africa’s least dived countries. Since arriving to Mozambique in early 2003, Andrea has logged over a thousand dives along this coastline exploring new reefs and documenting rare marine life. Her extraordinary encounters with rare species such as the small-eyed stingray and the snaggletooth weasel shark have earned her publications in numerous scientific journals and popular magazines alike.
Armed with her own camera and often accompanied by documentary crews, Andrea has introduced the world to a new frontier of African diving. From the BBC’s award-winning documentary on her life as a manta researcher to Ushuaia’s acclaimed 2010 production on this remote coastline, Andrea continues to use hard science and visually stunning media to capture the world’s attention and focus it towards conservation.
Said best in her own words, “The oceans still have so much to offer us, so many secrets to reveal. We must continue to embrace research, exploration, and conservation. I still marvel at how little we know about our great oceans. This sense of the unknown is what should drive us. It should inspire us. Now, more than at any other point in history, we have the distinct opportunity to become both the explorers and the ambassadors of this wondrous, liquid frontier.”
Andrea lives at Casa Barry Lodge in Tofo Beach, Mozambique. The resort houses the Manta Ray & Whale Shark Research Center where her team conducts research throughout the year.
Andrea was chosen as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for 2013.
Watch her Natural World BBC Documentary: Manta Queen
Watch Andrea speak about manta rays in her 2012 TED talk: TED talk
Save a Manta Ray by uploading to: Manta Matcher
Show your support for Andrea’s research efforts by donating to her Manta Ray Research Program, Adopting a Manta Ray, or purchasing one of her Ray of Hope research t-shirts at the Marine Megafauna online store!
Meet Dr. Marshall in person! Why not travel with her abroad on one of her wildly popular Ray of Hope Expeditions.