Researcher biography

Scuttling through the Saudi Arabian desert tracking monitor lizards to daily diving to survey manta ray populations off Mozambique, Rio has worked on unravelling the mysteries of wildlife to enable science-based conservation. Rio’s infectious enthusiasm for nature shines through whether she is guiding ocean kayaking tours or writing popular science.

Born in South Africa, Rio grew up fascinated by wildlife. To support the offshore expansion of her country’s Marine Protected Areas, she mapped and modelled the distribution of fish as the thesis component of her Master's in Conservation Biology at the University of Cape Town. This followed her Honours there, which reconstructed paleoclimate in a region she spent much of her childhood to gain insights about the environment in which early hunter-gatherers lived.

After working as a commercial diver restoring coral and camera assistant documenting Somaliland’s first Marine Protected Area Rio has now relocated to Brisbane to return to university. Optimising the resilience and restoration of Marine Protected Area networks is the focus of her PhD, which she is completing in the Marine Spatial Ecology Lab at The University of Queensland under Professor Peter Mumby.