Marine geoscientist

    Mardi McNeil

    Mardi McNeil, marine geoscientist
    Mardi is part of a team at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) carrying out the first ever assessment of how Halimeda affects the marine ecosystem in the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Will Stearman

    Uncovering the mysteries at the bottom of the ocean is all in a day’s work for marine geoscientist Mardi McNeil

    The ocean is filled with weird and wonderful creatures, but it’s the ancient stories hidden beneath the sea floor that intrigue Mardi McNeil the most. As a marine geoscientist, Mardi studies the deepest parts of the ocean for clues that show how the marine landscape formed over millions of years.  

    “Looking at the marine environment through rocks and sedimentary processes is like having a submersible time machine,” she says. 

    Mardi’s curiosity about the ocean depths grew when she took a marine geoscience unit during the second year of her science degree at QUT. Shortly after, she was selected as QUT’s delegate to the International Ocean Discovery Program’s Marine Geoscience Masterclass, where she spent a week learning from the best in the industry. But it was the idea of making the ocean her office that sealed the deal. 

    “I love being out on the water, so the opportunity to do fieldwork at sea from research vessels definitely influenced my decision,” she smiles.

    Found at sea

    In 2020, Mardi spent four months at sea mapping unexplored parts of the Queensland Plateau and the Great Barrier Reef on the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Research Vessel Falkor. Along with a team of fellow seafaring scientists, Mardi recorded a treasure trove of new species and even stumbled across a new coral reef that’s taller than the Empire State Building! 

    “Mapping and studying the modern seafloor is like being an explorer, and the anticipation of discovering something new is very exciting,” says Mardi.

    After a stint as a postdoc at QUT, Mardi landed her dream job as a marine geoscientist at Geoscience Australia where she uses her deep knowledge of the seafloor to develop sustainable management practices for Australia’s marine ecosystems, including Australia’s Antarctic Territory. But she wouldn’t be where she is today if she didn’t keep an open mind during her uni days, she says.

    “Don’t worry if you’re not really sure what you want to do or be at the end of your degree,” she advises. “No two student’s journeys are the same, and you won’t even know what opportunities are out there until you give it a go.” 

    Mardi’s study and career path

    • Bachelor Applied Science/Bachelor Science (Honours) (Environmental Science/Geoscience), QUT 
    • Participant, Schmidt Ocean Institute
    • PhD, Geological and Earth Sciences/Geosciences, QUT 
    • Marine Geoscientist, Geoscience Australia
    Gemma Conroy

    Author: Gemma Conroy

    Gemma is a freelance journalist with a passion for making science accessible to everyone. Gemma has a degree in biology from Macquarie University and loves sharing amazing discoveries with the world.

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