UNITED BY OUR PASSION

We are three generations of marine scientists, connected through marine research and education. Isabelle, a world renowned marine ecologist, was Chantale’s PhD advisor and had a big impact on her ideas in marine ecology and conservation. Noelle and Lauren met while studying coral reef ecology during a field course in Curaçao – that was taught by Chantale! Our paths have all remained intertwined over the years, united by a passion for marine conservation. We have committed our lives to understanding, protecting, and sharing our passion for the Ocean. Competing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is one more platform for us to draw attention to ocean protection, and to support the people and organizations on the front lines of the fight for our ocean.

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Chantale Begin

Chantale Bégin

MARINE SCIENTIST, EDUCATOR, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER

Chantale grew up in Québec, Canada. When she was 16 years old, after a random chance at going down to 800ft deep in the St. Lawrence Estuary in the submersible Clelia, she decided she wanted to be a marine biologist. This idea took her to Dalhousie University where she studied invasive seaweeds on the Nova Scotia coast, Université Laval where she studied invertebrate communities associated with kelp beds in the northern Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and eventually Simon Fraser University where she researched the impact of changing land use and sedimentation rates on the coral reefs of the Eastern Caribbean.

Along the way as she forged her path as a marine biologist, Chantale figured out that she really likes teaching—and good adventures. It largely started in her role as park interpreter at Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia; and eventually as a marine science instructor with Sea|mester sailing extensively throughout the Eastern Caribbean, then Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific. Her teaching also took her to the Nunavut Arctic College—working with the Inuit Community in Pond Inlet.

Now as a Senior Instructor at the University of South Florida (USF) and a National Geographic Explorer with two awesome kids—Zoë and Exie—Chantale likes new challenges like sailing offshore with seasick toddlers and teaching students how to do research and monitoring in coral reef ecosystems. She has lots of experience paddling outrigger canoes in Moorea, Vancouver and Florida, but no real experience rowing quite yet. After years of sailing across oceans, it seems like rowing across the Atlantic for marine conservation causes is a great blend of her ocean-going experience, sense of adventure and lifelong dedication to marine conservation.

Noelle Helder

MARINE ECOLOGIST, GUIDE, TYPE II FUN ENTHUSIAST

Noelle hails from small town North Carolina, USA. Beach vacations along the Carolina coast just weren’t enough time near the sea. She made the move south to attend the University of South Florida to major in biology, where she studied jaw mechanics in baby sharks, became a SCUBA divermaster and scientific diver, and outdoor adventure guide. She also attended a study abroad course in Curaçao – where she immediately befriended Lauren and their instructor, Chantale.

After graduation, Noelle discovered that she was just at home in the mountains as she was on the water. She spent the next two years jumping from seasonal guiding work in Alaska to research stations throughout the Caribbean and even dabbled in wine making in Oregon.

Noelle just finished her master’s degree at the University of Alberta where she studies fish community dynamics on coral reefs. She’s now heading to the Alaska Center for Energy and Power in Fairbanks, Alaska, as a 2021-2022 SeaGrant Fellow.

Although new to rowing, Noelle is stoked to combine her passion for marine conservation with some solid Type II fun by rowing across the Atlantic. She is excited to be a part of this science dream team, working towards this mission with women that have inspired her throughout her career.

Noelle Helder
Isabelle Cote

Isabelle Côté

PROFESSOR OF MARINE ECOLOGY, RUNNER, SWIMMER

Isabelle was born to a family of fishermen, sailors and captains, so a career in or on the water was almost inevitable. She was a competitive swimmer for a decade, but learning to scuba dive partway through her undergraduate degree in marine biology at McGill University really sealed her fate. She remembers the amazement of seeing her very first fish underwater – a yellow perch – like it was yesterday. As a senior, she jumped at the chance of doing her honours research on sea urchins at McGill’s tropical field station in Barbados. This was another turning point, as it triggered a life-long passion for coral reefs and their inhabitants.

After short stints studying bowhead whale feeding and walrus vocalisations in the Canadian Arctic, she returned to Barbados to do her MSc on the mating patterns of lovely coral reef fish called redlip blennies. Her PhD on the social behaviour of bluegill sunfish was a brief detour into temperate freshwaters. Upon landing her first faculty position at the University of East Anglia, England, she developed a strong program on Caribbean coral reef ecology and conservation. This research continued when she became Professor of Marine Ecology at Simon Fraser University, Canada, and it has now expanded to cold-water coastal ecosystems.

Her research over the past 30 years has made an impressive contribution to our understanding of marine ecosystems and how they are affected by human activities. She pioneered the use meta-analyses to assess changes in Caribbean coral reef ecosystems, was one of the first scientists to study the impact of the lionfish invasion in the Caribbean, and is now leading research that sheds light into how marine ecosystems may respond to the combination of local stressors and climate change.​ Isabelle has published nearly 200 scientific papers and earned numerous accolades for her work, including the Murray A. Newman Award, a Leopold Leadership Fellowship and a Marsh Award for Conservation Biology. In recent years, science communication has become another passion. She strives to share the results of her research to broad audiences and engage with leaders in the public and private sectors, so that her applied research can lead to actions that help oceans.

Isabelle is the proud mum of two amazing young women – Geneviève, an MSc student in forest ecology, and Catherine, a BFA student in photography and film studies – who are bright, kind and tread lightly on the planet. She still swims in the warmer half of the year in local lakes and in the Salish Sea, and is an avid trail runner with a handful of ultras under her belt. She canoes and kayaks and is planning on learning to row very soon! She feels very strongly that age is just a state of mind.

Lauren Shea

SAILOR AND MARINE CONSERVATIONIST

Growing up in Florida, Lauren spent most of her time on the water swimming, diving, and exploring. Her passion for understanding the natural world took her to the University of South Florida for a BSc in Marine Biology, where she conducted research on frogs as an indicator of pollution and participated in a coral reef ecology field course in Curaçao.

Throughout her degree and since graduating she has sought out interesting marine conservation projects around the globe, and she has studied gobies in New Zealand, coral reefs in Saudi Arabia and South Florida, and Marine Protected Areas in the Falkland Islands.

Lauren was introduced to sailing when she started teaching Marine Biology and scuba diving with ActionQuest—a summer program for teenagers based in the British Virgin Islands. She is now the first mate aboard the sailing vessel Argo, a school ship that takes university students for a semester of experiential learning in marine biology, oceanography and nautical science. She has sailed across both the Atlantic and the Pacific—earning her title of Shellback when she sailed across the equator near the Galápagos islands in early 2021.

Lauren Shea

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