Staff Spotlight: Dr. Dan Exton

Head of Research
Dan is a marine biologist with over 12 years experience managing remote expedition research into coral reef ecology and conservation. He now manages all the research activities of Operation Wallacea and heads up their large scale conservation management interventions.

What is your favorite travel memory?

diving with fish

I had been invited to explore a newly discovered coral reef system in Honduras and arrived to find an area of coastline that could have been a poster child for everything corals hate!

Descending through the murky water in a storm expecting to find nothing of interest, I still remember the moment the reef emerged. The reef is called Banco Capiro, and it has proved to be one of the most unique and fascinating sites anywhere in the Caribbean.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

So many great examples come to mind, but one in particular stands out. A student who had been away with us to Cuba aged 17 as part of a group from his high school.

This had inspired him to study marine biology at university, and to complete his thesis project with us in Indonesia.

He was such a great student that, after graduating, he subsequently worked with us teaching volunteers about coral reef ecology. He is now applying for PhD studentships working alongside our academics, and it's been great seeing him grow from a passionate teenager to taking his first steps in an academic career.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I've been lucky enough to visit the majority of our sites over the past ten years, and in particular to spend a lot of time at our main marine sites. Now and again I even get to visit the jungle!

But one area I've never visited is South Africa, and if I could go on any program we offer it would probably by there, to experience something completely different and see a part of the world I've not yet managed to.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

green turtle with remora 3 toladona

For me it's the chance for students to work alongside real scientists and collect data that goes towards genuine research and conservation.

The fact that we are fully funded by our students gives them a real sense of ownership over our programs, and this funding itself has supported a huge number of PhD students and early career scientists; it is a great example of a mutualistic relationship!

This past year we hit 250 peer-reviewed scientific publications and that was a real moment of pride for us all.