Irthisham Zareer, In-field Coordinator

Our youngest staff member Iru has been inseparable from the ocean since childhood. She has fond recollections of waking up bright and early on weekends to go swimming with her father and sister.

It was this fascination for the ocean and marine life that piqued her curiosity for big fish. After an initial apprenticeship with IUCN during her gap year, Iru joined the field of marine research at the age of 19; still a largely male dominated profession in the Maldives. Now a Reef Check Eco Diver and a Green Fins Country Assessor, Iru is an environmental enthusiast and to a great extent, prefers the quiet island life of Maldives, away from the capital city Male’ where she grew up.

The backbone of the in-field team, Iru has almost the entire database memorised and is able to recognise many of the individuals we encounter on the spot, an impressive feat! Iru is happiest by the sea and never strays too far, when she's not in the water swimming with ocean giants or finding nudibranchs she can be found at the beach ice cream cone in hand.

Edward Doherty, In-Field Marine Biologist

Edward recently graduated from Bangor University with an integrated Masters in Marine Biology, preceded by a BSc in Marine Vertebrate Zoology. He has a particular interest in cetaceans and elasmobranchs, which were the predominant focus of his 3rd and 4th years at university. After having worked with great white sharks in South Africa last year, his passion for elasmobranchs is stronger than ever and he is thrilled to have joined the team at MWSRP!

In his spare time Edward enjoys wandering around Snowdonia National Park, rock climbing and free diving (plus some photography here and there). After moving to the flattest country in the world though he is going to have to replace climbing with a new hobby, unless he can find a decent palm tree!

Tom Jenkins, App Developer

Tom is a software developer based in Manchester, UK. Tom has been interested in wildlife and conservation since childhood. He used to say that if he wasn't developing software, he'd be working with animals. Now he can say he does both!

In 2009, Tom answered a "help wanted" ad for the reboot of MWSRP's website and has never looked back. He has since developed the programme's online encounter portal and mobile app which enable resorts and local enthusiasts to contribute encounter data to the programme, as well as connecting with the magnificent whale sharks that roam their waters. He is currently working on expanding the app to include individual photo-ID and encounter submission capabilities so that the team, resorts and citizen scientists can log, ID and share their shark encounters straight from the boat.

When he's not working on MWSRP projects, Tom works on web-based citizen science apps for Zooniverse and software for the UK's National Health Service. He doesn't get out to the Maldives enough, but he hopes that will all change soon...

Clara Cánovas Pérez, Lead In-Field Coordinator

Clara comes from a small island in Spain, Mallorca. She grew up spending most of her time in the sea with her father, fishing and snorkeling. Seeing large fish and megafauna was her childhood dream and lead her to an undergraduate in Environmental Sciences and then an MSc in Marine Ecology.

After visiting the Maldives twice, she fell in love with the country and decided that she wanted to come back to help protect the whale sharks and develop sustainable tourism. Clara has participated in cetacean research projects, fisheries management projects and has helped in a chimpanzee sanctuary and veterinary hospital. Until recently, she has been working in nature reserves as a guide, focusing on sustainable tourism and conservation.

When she is not working, Clara is travelling around the world on the lookout for megafauna, or at home practicing water sports, hiking or climbing. She will always have one of her multiple cameras on her and when she spends more than a week without being able to see the ocean, she becomes “land” sick.

Ibrahim Shameel, Volunteer Coordinator

Currently reading York College's International Foundation Programme in the UK, Shameel is originally from the Maldives capital Malè. Yet despite the city boy tag this automatically gives him, he is happiest in the water! He joined our team after coming out to volunteer in 2013, deciding on a change of course from an office job in Human Resources to marine research and conservation. He helps run the volunteer programme and is a massive part of making our community work happen.

Shameel’s claim to fame is representing the Maldives in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in their national swimming team - we think he’s part fish he’s so comfortable in the water! He also has a very unfortunate taste in board shorts.

Richard Rees, Director

Rich comes from the West coast of Wales and this is probably where his love of the ocean and penchant for day dreaming originates. It took him two research expeditions to the mountains of Papua New Guinea and Kazakhstan to realise just how much he wanted to work by the sea.

Rich worked as a fisherman whilst planning a first expedition to the Maldives with Jim and later for a fisheries monitoring company in Victoria, Canada. Over the years Rich has memorised most of the whale shark spot patterns in the database, which is a good job because chances are he’s forgotten his laptop.

Jim Hancock, Operations Manager

Discovered early on that as a fair skinned Welshman, the tropical sun was never going to be his friend! One of the founding members of the Programme, Jim began his Maldives association as a marine biologist straight out of university. He moved into the resort world, gaining department head operations experience.

As a self-confessed fish geek, Jim went back to his marine roots as the Cruise Director of a liveaboard, spending a few years traversing the paths less traveled in the Maldives. Usually you can find Jim at the end of a day applying after-sun.

Rachel Bott, Outdoor Instructor

Despite appearances, Rachel is actually half Seychellois and seems to have the ocean in her blood (well… warm tropical ones at least!). A passionate fan of whale sharks, Rachel knows many of the individuals on our database by sight and has contributed to multiple scientific publications.

Rachel has her MSc in Marine Biology and is an invaluable asset to the MWSRP. She is a huge fan of the outdoors and can be found leading the charge from surfing the waves in western Wales and to anything mountainous!

Ben Fothergill, Manager, Outdoor Instructor

Some people were just born to work outdoors with nature, and Ben is definitely one of them. When he’s not swimming after a whale shark in the Maldives, he’ll be identifying trees in Scotland or leading outdoor pursuits somewhere rugged and uncomfortable! A keen and pretty handy stand-up-paddle boarder and surfer to boot, Ben is also something of a closet sea-grass fan, and by default, our expert!

Board of Trustees

Rhodri Lloyd-Williams

Rhodri Lloyd-Williams has a wealth of knowledge on whale sharks and the Maldives, having been involved from the early days of the Programme with MWSRP Director, Rich.

Morgan Riley

Morgan Riley has a wealth of knowledge on whale sharks and the Maldives, having been involved from the early days of the Programme with MWSRP Director, Rich.

Scientific Advisory Board

Brent Stewart, PhD, JD, Senior Research Scientist

Professional Foci: Population Biology, Ecology and Physiology of Marine Vertebrates.

Dr. Stewart holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from the University of California at Los Angeles, a Master of Science degree in Ecology from California State University at San Diego, a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a Juris Doctorate from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Stewart served as a Science and Diplomacy Fellow in the Bureau of Oceans at the U.S. State Department from 1999 to 2001 and was awarded the prestigious Lowell Thomas Medal by The Explorers Club for his career efforts to explore, understand, and conserve Earth's ocean wildlife, In 2012, he was recognized as one of forty of the world's leading conservation biologists. Read more about Dr. Stewart here.