Melissa Hobson: marine science journalist – examples of my work

October 5, 2023

One of my specialisms as a writer is covering exciting new studies in the marine conservation space. There's so much we don't know about the ocean and we're learning new things all the time. As a marine science journalist, I love finding new papers that shed a little more light on our ocean, the creatures that call it home and how to protect our blue planet. Here are a few examples of my writing about marine conservation studies.

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...!)

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.

Smalleye stingray - Nat Geo

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. Very, very cool!

Phantom jellyfish - Nat Geo

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.

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.

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!

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.

Shocking finding - New Scientist

In a scientific first, researchers were able to induce gene transfer using all natural organisms for the first time. For New Scientist, I covered this study where researchers used electric eel electricity to successfully transfer a fluorescent marker into zebrafish larvae.

Shocking finding - New Scientist

In a scientific first, researchers were able to induce gene transfer using all natural organisms for the first time. For New Scientist, I covered this study where researchers used electric eel electricity to successfully transfer a fluorescent marker into zebrafish larvae.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

Tiger and mako sharks - Nat Geo

For this Nat Geo article, I covered attempts to record tiger sharks' bite force and mako sharks' speed. Plus, the article looks at why it's so important for us to learn more about these incredible predators.

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.

Dolphin friendships - VICE

it's amazing how much we're still learning about the ocean. A while back, scientists discovered that bottlenose dolphins can recognise their friends through the taste of their urine. I found this a fascinating paper to write about for VICE. And, no, I'm not taking the p***!

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.

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.

Whale myths - 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.

Swallowed by a whale - Nat Geo

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!

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.

Galapagos whale sharks - Oceanographic

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

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!

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...

Whale sharks - 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).

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.

Dolphins and manatees - Live Science

For Live Science, I covered a new study which documented dolphins acting 'like jerks' and attacking baby manatees. Yikes.

The Meg - Live Science

A new study suggested that the Meg may have been more slender than scientists previously thought and might not look like a mega great white. Could this be true? I looked into it for Live Science.

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.

Long-term ocean observation - EMBRC

I had a fascinating chat with Neil Davies about the need for long-term genomics observatories for EMBRC.

If you're looking for a marine science journalist to tell your story, feel free to get in touch.

I'm always interested to hear from marine biologists with information about an upcoming study and editors or organisations looking for someone to write about interesting marine science news.

Ready to chat?

Hello!

Great to hear you're interested in working together - I'm always keen to hear about exciting new stories from marine conservationists, potential commissions from editors and suitable briefs from prospective clients.

So, let's chat. You can send me an email (I aim to respond within three working days, usually sooner) or book a call below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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