Melissa Hobson: conservation writer – examples of my work

May 22, 2023

It will probably come as no surprise that I'm passionate about conservation and ways to protect our ocean and our planet. This has been a focus of lots of my published work and something I love to write about. See below for examples of my work as a conservation writer.

Crittercams - National Geographic

I love the weird rabbit holes my writing takes me down. In this piece, I heard how researchers attached Crittercams to manta rays and filmed the species' deepest recorded courtship train.

Bioluminescent sea cucumbers - New Scientist

Think it's totally dark at the bottom of the ocean? Think again... Researchers discovered 10 species of sea cucumber can emit light and there may be 200 more bioluminescent species down there. So cool how we're always learning about the underwater world.

Courtship vortex - National Geographic

It always seems to come back to sex, doesn't it?! As an ocean writer, lots of my articles cover cool things we've learned about animals getting jiggy underwater. And this story was no different. In this Nat Geo article, I was excited to write about the first description of a mesmerising 'courtship vortex' in devil rays (although the section on 'piggyback leaping' was rather, um, disturbing...!)

Nurdle hunters - the Guardian

Sure, you're doing your bit by recycling but what about the plastic pollution being poured into the ocean BEFORE plastic is even made into any products? I wrote about nurdle pollution for The Guardian.

White-clawed crayfish - BBC Countryfile

One of the UK’s most endangered native species is under threat but experts are taking steps to protect them. That's why Marwell Wildlife is planning to open a conservation breeding centre for the white-clawed crayfish. I shared the story for BBC Countryfile Magazine.

Whale larynx - Nat Geo

I never knew I would know so much about the anatomy of a baleen whale's larynx... but that's life as an ocean writer, I guess! In this article for Nat Geo, I wrote about a new discovery into baleen whales’ anatomy that helps them sing underwater without drowning.

Kelping - National Geographic

I must admit this was a really fun one to write. For Nat Geo, I wrote about the 'kelping' phenomenon - when whales wear seaweed like a hat - how it's more common than previously thought and what might really be going on.

Spinning sawfish - BBC Wildlife

Scientists are worried about endangered smalltooth sawfish which have been seen spinning in circles and dying. Now, experts are getting involved to rescue, rehabilitate and release these fish in distress. I wrote about it for BBC Wildlife.

Sylvia Earle - BBC Wildlife

I was honoured to meet Sylvia earlier this year at the Economist Impact's World Ocean Summit. You can read my BBC Wildlife Magazine interview & all about Sylvia's amazing achievements here.

Smalleye stingray - National Geographic

Writing about wildlife firsts is always exciting - and that's exactly why I loved working on this story for National Geographic about the team at MMF tagging smalleye stingrays in the wild to inform conservation measures. Very, very cool!

Whaling in Japan - National Geographic

So depressing that countries are making new commitments to kill whales. Earlier this year, Japan announced it would kill fin whales, which are already vulnerable to extinction. I covered the story for BBC Wildlife.

1000 mantas - BBC Wildlife

Loved writing this for BBC Wildlife Magazine - researchers have identified 1,000 individual oceanic manta rays in the Maldives. The Maldives is has the world's largest population of these giant mantas. The 1000th manta has been named ‘Anbu’ (which means mango in Dhivehi).

Phantom jellyfish - National Geographic

I hate the cold so am often drawn to tropical climates. But there's also fascinating work going on in the polar regions. Again for Nat Geo, I was excited to cover the rare sighting of a giant phantom jellyfish and how tourism is impacting scientific discoveries.

Pregnant manta rays - National Geographic

I love how new scientific and technological developments are helping us push conservation efforts forward. A great example of this was my Nat Geo article on the Manta Trust's study whiched used contactless ultrasound scanners to more accurately determine pregnancy and maturity in manta rays. The paper confirms scientists have been underestimating the number of mature females in the population, meaning they're more vulnerable than we previously thought.

Shrinking right whales - Live Science

North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered. They're also shrinking... & this could have worrying consequences for the population. I covered the story for Live Science.

Kelp restoration - the Guardian

This article was a particularly special one for me. Not only was it the first time I had a commission with the Guardian (hopefully not the only time - let's see how I get on with future pitches!) but, after the piece went out, Steve's project was flooded with support (and about £10k in crowdfunding donations). Such a wonderful reminder that storytelling is SUCH an important part of conservation projects. Plus, it was super interesting to learn about and write, of course!

Red handfish rescue - BBC Wildlife

The critically endangered red handfish is a peculiar species so it was really fun to learn more about the operation to 'rescue' 25 of them from the wild to protect them from upcoming marine heatwaves. By debut byline for BBC Wildlife.

Red handfish release - BBC Wildlife

Some positive news... the rare red handfish that were taken into captivity to protect them from marine heatwaves have been released back into the wild. Nice to write about this positive conservation story for BBC Wildlife Magazine recently.

Fish doorbell - BBC Wildlife

Ding dong: The subject of this article I wrote for BBC Wildlife is lurking around a Dutch lock waiting for someone to open the gates... 🐟

Bottom feeding whale sharks - New Scientist

It's amazing that 'regular people' can help scientists discover new things about elusive animals in our ocean. A great is example is in this piece I wrote for New Scientist - a tourism guide spotted some unusual behaviour in a whale shark and managed to get it on film. It was the first time we've ever seen whale sharks (which usually nom on plankton in the water column) feeding from the bottom. Wow!

Whale shark ship strikes - Nat Geo

Ship strikes aren't just a problem for whales. Scientists believe whale sharks are also being taken out by ship strikes and I covered the study for Nat Geo.

Shark mortality - Live Science

Writing about the ocean isn't always enjoying learning cool things about fascinating animals. Sometimes (/often) we have to cover the dark / depressing side of the conservation picture. Like this piece I wrote for Live Science about a new study revealing shark mortality from fishing went UP despite anti-finning legislation. But I believe it is important to keep sharing these stories so we can inspire action.

Dorado octopus - New Scientist

I love how much we're STILL discovering about the deep sea. For New Scientist, I covered the new discovery of at least four octopus species - so cool!

Hot fish - New Scientist

Changing everything we thought we knew about basking sharks... they might actually be warm blooded! Love that I get to geek out on crazy discoveries like this for New Scientist and call it work.

Sharks on strange shores - Sunday Times

Scientists were amazed when not one but three smalltooth sand tiger sharks washed up on the UK & Irish coastline. For the Sunday Times, I talked to scientists to find out what might have brought this rare species to our shores.

Crown-of-Thorns - Nat Geo

Crown-of-Thorns starfish are stunning... but outbreaks can pose a huge threat to coral reefs. For Nat Geo, I explored the problems of these thorny predators and potential solutions.

Orcas ramming boats - Nat Geo

When Iberian orcas started ramming boats, scientists couldn't figure out why... until now. For National Geographic, I recently spoke to killer whale experts to find out what's really going on (and why negative media coverage around orcas isn't helpful).

Shark buddies - Nat Geo

When two juvenile sharks swam together for 4,000 miles, scientists started wondering what could be going on. Might they be... friends? No, say researchers, but in this Nat Geo article they filled me in on why this finding is so exciting.

Unusual mortality events - Nat Geo

What's going on with mass whale strandings? Could it be anything to do with offshore wind? I spoke to some scientists to find out for Nat Geo.

Isle of Lewis strandings - Guardian

This was a really tough one to write but I hope it raises awareness of the amazing efforts of the BDMLR volunteers in Scotland who battled against the clock to save 55 stranded pilot whales.

Corals in hot water - Nat Geo

It's no secret that corals don't love hot waters. So what happens when the ocean creeps closer to the temperatures found in a hot tub? When the El Niño was confirmed for 2023, I spoke to some experts to find out for Nat Geo.

Arctic Sense - Sidetracked

One of the best thing about interviewing conservationists for my articles is that you get to listen to cool stories like 'that time a polar bear tried to board our boat.' If you're interested in finding out about whale conservation expeditions in the Arctic, check out this piece I wrote in Sidetracked ????

Paternal squid - National Geographic

This article the first time I covered a new scientific paper for Nat Geo after the lead author approached me with their findings. And the study was super interesting: shedding new light onto the paternal care of bigfin reef squid. The more new things we learn about species and their reproductive behaviours, the more we'll know how to protect them.

Marine life rescue - Reader's Digest

"What would I do if I found a stranded porpoise, dolphin or whale on my beach walk?", you ask? Wonder no more...! Here are some top tips I wrote for Reader's Digest on what you should - and shouldn't! - do.

Lionfish in the Med - BBC Wildlife

Venomous lionfish have been spreading across the Mediterranean Sea. I wrote about the potential ecological impacts for BBC Wildlife.

Coral bleaching - Nat Geo 

A really important topic. For Nat Geo, I covered the striking before and after photos of coral bleaching on Lord Howe island.  

North Atlantic right whale calf - BBC Wildlife

Lovely to have the opportunity to write about this precious calf sighting. There are only around 360 North Atlantic right whales left on the planet, so it's really special to see a new mom and calf pair!

Mega pregnancy - New Scientist

Megamouth sharks are an incredibly rare deep sea species. So, it was a huge surprise when a female pregnant with seven pups washed up in the Philippines - the first recorded pregnancy in the species. I covered the discovery for New Scientist.

Underwater drones - BBC Widlife

Thanks to BBC Wildlife Magazine for letting me geek out about this DNA project - using underwater drones to learn more about mesophotic coral ecosystems in Japan.

Stranding response - Inkcap Journal

When you think of marine conservation, you might conjour up an image of warm waters lapping white sandy shores. But it can take place at any time and in all weathers. As a trained marine mammal medic, I was intrigued by this account of a sperm whale stranding one Christmas Eve in the UK. I covered the story for Inkcap Journal.

Busting myths about whales - National Geographic

Ever wondered what's in that spout that comes out of a whales' blowhole when the come to the surface? It's not (just) water... This was one of my early articles for Nat Geo but still one I'm really fond of.

Climate tipping points - Resurgence & Ecologist

Thanks Resurgence & Ecologist for including my article on climate tipping points in the Thresholds issue. In the piece, I explore how we can take different pathways to stop the Earth reaching irreversible climate tipping points.

Heat resistant corals - Independent

Firstly, corals ARE animals (not plants or rocks). When I can't go diving to see coral reefs in real life, I love to write about them. This was an interesting piece looking at how heat resistant corals could help coral reefs in the face of a warming ocean.

Swallowed by a whale - National Geographic

Throwback to my first ever article with Nat Geo. Basically, I got really cross about a story going viral at the time where a fisherman had allegedly been swallowed by a humpback whale. Spoiler: he somehow ended up in its mouth, sure, but he wasn't 'swallowed'. So I chatted to a few scientists to get the lowdown on whether a whale could ever swallow a human. Enjoy!

Stranded whales - Footprint magazine

Do you know what you'd do if you came across a stranded whale, dolphin or porpoise? Your action could save their life. But, remember, trying to put it back in the water could do more harm than good. I walked Footprint magazine through what you should do...

Baby shark - Live Science

In what's been described as one of the holy grails of shark science, researchers think they've finally seen a newborn great white for the first time. And I got to dive into it for Live Science.

New isopod - Live Science

Deep sea explorers discovered a weird new roly poly bug. It was white and see-through so they could even see its guts through its body. I love covering the deep sea so this was a fun one to write for Live Science.

Slow down - National Geographic

North Atlantic right whales are having a bit of a **** time right now. There are fewer than 400 individuals left and speeding boats and fishing could wipe them out altogether. A sad but important story I wrote for Nat Geo.

The pandemic and the ocean - Scuba Diving

For scuba diving, I explored the ways in which the pandemic helped the ocean. The question, now, is whether we learned from that time and moved forward in the right way.

Returning to travel - Fodors

The relationship between tourism and conservation is a complex one. Unmanaged tourism can have a hugely negative impact on ecosystems and communities - but what benefits does tourism bring? I had a think about this a while back for Fodors - I hope you find it interesting!

Beached whales - National Geographic

If you've ever wondered why a whale might become beached, check out my piece for Nat Geo exploring the many different reasons a whale might find itself where it's not supposed to be... on land.

Leaky shipwrecks - the Daily Beast

What's the scariest thing you can think of under the sea? Sharks? Sea monsters? Haunted pirate ships?! How about slowly degrading WWII shipwrecks that could be on the brink of leaking oil and devastating the ocean ecosystem? I wrote about these ticking time bombs a while back for the Daily Beast.

Protecting coral reefs - Ecophiles

For Ecophiles, I wrote a piece explaining the simple ways you can protect coral reefs when scuba diving or snorkelling.

Jet propelled midwives - Diver

If the headline 'Meet the jet propelled midwives' isn't enough to intrigue you to read my old Diver article from 2019, I don't know what is!

Whale shark tourism - World Footprints

For World Footprints, I wrote about how to travel sustainably and follow the Code of Conduct for responsible interactions when visiting countries to see iconic or endangered species like Madagascar's whale sharks.

Queen of Mantas - World Footprint

I've admired MMF's Andrea Marshall since I met her back in 2018 - if you haven't heard of Andrea, check out the documentary 'Queen of Mantas' to find out more about her incredible work to protect manta rays. Or have a cheeky read of this article I wrote about her work a while back...

Freediving with sharks - Sidetracked

The cool thing about my work is that I get to chat to cool conservationists doing exciting things like freediving with sharks, which is exactly what I did for this Sidetracked magazine article.

Ocean Guardians -

Meet the Ocean Guardians: the amazing instructors giving life-saving swimming lessons in Mozambique. Another piece from the archives and makes me miss that amazing year (almost) when I was based in Moz and volunteering with MMF.

Where the whale sharks are - Diver

Back in 2018, I wrote this piece exploring where the whale sharks are and how one woman is dedicating her life to protecting them. Fast forward to today and I'm still protecting the Madagascar Whale Shark Project Foundation (and Stella is still smashing it with her conservation work).

Rhino conservation - Culture Trip

When you think countries leading the way with rhino conservation, would you think of eSwatini? More on the country's rhino conservation efforts in this article I wrote for Culture Trip.

Wildlife in eSwatini - Culture Trip

eSwatini is small but mighty when it comes to wildlife. In this article I wrote about where to see amazing animals when visiting the country.

Shark freediving - Diver

Let's be honest, sharks can get a pretty bad rap. So it's always cool to hear about people like Lukas, who I wrote about for Diver magazine, who are working to protect these magnificent creatures.

Whale sharks - Ecophiles

For Ecophiles, I pulled together a roundup of fun facts about the world's biggest fish: the whale shark.

Conservation in Mozambique - Family Traveller

People often ask how I got into marine conservation and I usually say "I couldn't help myself". But it also involved quitting my job and relocating to Mozambique for a bit. I wrote about it for Family Traveller.

Whale sharks - Oceanographic

For Oceanographic, I wrote up an interview with the Madagascar Whale Shark Project Foundation's Stella Diamant about her important conservation work.

Galapagos whale sharks - Oceanographic

Again for Oceanographic, I covered the mysteries of pregnancy in the world's largest fish.

Whale sharks - Ecophiles

If you're ever lucky enough to swim with a whale shark, please make sure it's a responsible encounter by following the whale shark Code of Conduct. I interviewed Madagascar Whale Shark's Stelle Diamant for Ecophiles to get more details on what you should and shouldn't do as a responsible tourist.

Alternative livelihoods - Curiosity

For Curiosity magazine, I looked at how alternative livelihoods to fishing are helping both marine life and local communities in Mozambique.

Snowy winters - Nat Geo

Ever felt like winter is getting less snowy? You're not imagining it. Winters are getting less snowy (yes, even though some places have recently had snow!). I wrote about why this is happening and what it means for National Geographic.

Protecting coral reefs -

I wrote this piece for, about how effective conservation and management measures can help protect coral reefs from the threats they face globally.

Mission 2020 -

In this article, I explored Mission 2020 and how organisations around the world are rallying against the plastic pollution crisis.

Helping sharks - Ecophiles

Ever wondered how you can help sharks? I shared a few ways in this article for Ecophiles.

Urban beekeeping - Ecophiles

In this article, I shared ways people can help protect bees even if they live in the city.

Responsible elephant encounters - Ecophiles

For Save the Elephants Day, I wrote about how responsible travellers can see elephants without harming them.

Protecting the ocean - Ecophiles

As a scuba diver, I'm passionate about protecting the ocean. But you don't need to be a diver to make a difference. In this article, I share a few ways you can make a difference even if you're not a diver.

Diving and conservation - Ecophiles

I wrote an article for Ecophiles about the pristine dive spots which are focused on protecting the marine ecosystem.

CSI of the Sea - Fodors

Meet the CSI of the Sea in this article I wrote about the guy trying to solve a string of mysterious deaths off the coast of the UK...

If you're looking for a conservation writer to tell your story, feel free to get in touch.