Pablo Fuenzalida

Scholar Date: 
2024 to 2025

Pablo Alfonso Fuenzalida Miralles, 24, was born in Chile and grew up for 7 years on farms in New Zealand before moving to the Sunshine Coast, Australia. Throughout his life, he has lived near pristine coastlines and spent a lot of time enjoying the natural world. He got the chance to snorkel the great barrier reef off north Queensland at age 13 and was immediately captivated by the soundscape, colours, and magic of a bustling coral reef. During a gap year, a conversation with climate-change denier led him to realise two things; 1. He didn’t have the knowledge of evidence-based data to prove the denier wrong, and 2. He enjoyed debating someone about the declining state of our natural world.

In 2018, Pablo enrolled at the University of the Sunshine Coast. In his third year of university, he met a professor in beach ecology, which was his first entrance into marine research, and was inspired to pursue a career in the discipline. Since then, he’s been striving towards making marine conservation and ecology his life. He completed his double undergraduate degree in animal ecology and business in 2022.

Pablo then undertook an end-on honours degree in quantitative marine ecology, studying the drivers of capture and movement of grey nurse sharks (Carcharias taurus) across eastern Australia using 11 years of shark control program bycatch interactions and acoustic telemetry data. Pablo finished his honours degree in February 2024 with a first-class honours and is currently in the process of publishing his research to assist policymakers in evidence-based decision making that builds towards the recovery of the east Australian population of C. taurus.

Pablo got his PADI Open Water and Advanced diving certifications in 2019, beginning his scuba diving career on the shipwrecks, coral reefs and shark aggregation sites teeming with life off the Sunshine Coast. He completed his Rescue and Nitrox courses in 2023 with the aim of learning to work underwater across various research projects.

Pablo’s varied volunteer experiences include being an ambassador and team leader at the non-profit Reef Check Australia since 2019, He also served as an animal ecology student representative, learned how to tag large sharks using land-based fishing methods, and completed a United Nations course on The Paris Agreement on Climate Change as a Development Agenda.

In 2023, Pablo founded and became the first president of The Ecological Society at the University of the Sunshine Coast, the first club dedicated to connecting and empowering animal ecology students across all undergraduate and postgraduate levels at his university.

Pablo is extremely honoured to be the 2024 Australasian Scholar and sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that fulfills his childhood dreams. He hopes the year will allow him to explore his various research interests to gain more experience in scientific diving, science communication and marine megafauna research. Pablo also hopes a year of varied scientific experiences will help him understand what he wishes to pursue in his postgraduate studies after the scholarship year ends.