Position: University Lecturer, Field: Marine ecology, Organisation: Department of Marine Science, University of Otago

Dr Candida Savage is a lecturer in the Marine Science Department at the University of Otago. She grew up in South Africa, a country that offers many opportunities to observe and interact with wildlife both on land and at sea. Candida was always drawn to the sea and decided to become a marine biologist at a very young age.

During her final years at high school, Candida volunteered at the dolphinarium in Durban. She was involved in public shows with marine mammals and birds, daily food preparation and water chemistry testing. She joined in conservation projects throughout her school and university years, for example, cleaning penguins and seabirds following oil spills and working with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Candida completed a Bachelor of Science with double majors in zoology and botany at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. She then completed honours and master’s degrees in marine biology at UCT. Her master’s research involved working for several weeks at a time on large vessels off the Namibian coast to investigate the effects of offshore diamond mining on the animals that inhabit the seabed.

One aspect that I thrive on is working across disciplines and exchanging ideas with experts in different fields – biology, chemistry, ecology and geology. That is how we can best answer the important ‘big’ questions that need addressing.

After this period of study, Candida travelled extensively throughout Europe and worked in the UK as a science communicator for the biotechnology industry. This ultimately took her to Stockholm, Sweden, where she pursued a PhD through the Department of Systems Ecology at Stockholm University. Her PhD research used a combination of ecological work, chemical tools and palaeoecology to understand how human wastewater affects coastal ecosystems. At the Systems Ecology Department, Candida learnt the importance of holistic thinking – how terrestrial and marine ecosystems are interconnected and the role that humans play in ecology.

Following her PhD, Candida worked on a European Union project looking at long-term changes in coastal ecosystems following human impacts.

In January 2005, Candida commenced a lectureship position in Marine Ecology at Otago University. Her job has 3 important components: teaching, research and community service. Candida teaches 7 courses and also works with students on projects looking at estuarine and coastal ecosystems, food web studies, biogeochemistry and palaeoecology.

Her research investigates human impacts on coastal ecosystems. This involves looking at changes in estuarine food webs and the growth rates of organisms.

Community service is an important part of her role and involves reviewing scientific articles submitted by other scientists, giving lectures to the general public and being involved with school science programmes.

This article is based on information current in 2009.

    Published 7 October 2009