Neil was born in South Africa, where his passion for the ocean first began. His family vacationed at the beach, where he was exposed to the ocean and its creatures, which inspired him to become a marine scientist. He studied at the University of Toronto where he earned an undergraduate degree in biology and became fascinated by behavioral ecology. He spent his school breaks volunteering for different marine research organizations so that he could get experience in this field of science. He had the fortunate opportunity to study the behavioral ecology of a variety of species, but after being exposed to shark research and learning about the conservation needs of these animals, he decided to make them a focus of his future research. Neil is a marine ecologist and Research Associate Professor at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science and Abess Center for Ecosystem Science & Policy. He is also the director of the Shark Research & Conservation Program (SRC) at the University of Miami. Every year, SRC brings out thousands of people from the public, mostly schoolchildren, on research vessels to survey, sample, tag and study sharks. His current research centers broadly on the behavioral ecology, conservation biology and movement ecology of marine predators, primarily focused on sharks.
I was inspired at an early age. My family recalls how at 3 years old, I would imagine myself as a scuba diver, building “air tanks” out of 2-liter soda bottles and pretending to dive. I was snorkeling before I could spell. I got certified at the earliest opportunity, which back then was 12. I never stopped diving and by 16 was certified as a Master scuba diver. When I was younger, I loved the silence and weightlessness. Now, my hobby is to dive with sharks. I love seeing these amazing animals.
I first got in to shark research volunteering for a research organization in northern California when I was in my early twenties. Getting hands-on experience with sharks encouraged me to learn more about them, and as I did I realized how comparatively little was known about sharks, not to mention the growing realization of their threat status, which prompted me to learn more. Eventually this interest turned into a passion, which turned into a career.
I love watching live music. My favorite band of all time is Pearl Jam.
The wetsuits. They fit so well, and keep me warm and protected. I don’t feel restricted, which is key!
I love their high-performance diving gear and I also looked forward to the opportunity to hopefully engage with a bigger audience about shark conservation.