Marine Spatial Planning
Felix became a marine scientist with a vision to make a positive difference to our understanding of and attitude towards the ocean. Too much of what lies beneath the surface of the sea is ignored ― out of sight, out of mind. His current research focus is on the role of marine protected areas in oceanic islands and atolls of the Pacific. In his current case study of the Senyavin Islands, Felix also explores how environmental gradients across depth from the shallow reefs to the upper mesophotic respond to anthropogenic climate change, and how conservation efforts affect community composition. His goal is to alert people across the globe to the rapid changes occurring in the ecosystems around us and to understand ecological processes behind them. Using powerful imagery, maps, and statistics, Felix tries to find the right tools to communicate his science to all audiences.
Felix, 27, grew up in Innsbruck amidst the alpine mountains of Austria, far away from the sea and without any notion about the diversity of marine life. This changed rapidly in 2009 when Felix was awarded a full scholarship to complete his high school at the Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific on Vancouver Island. Immersed in the multicultural community of this international school, Felix’s interest in other countries, traditions and languages thrived. At Pearson College, he chose a marine science class and started to scuba-dive. Felix was immediately hooked on the wonders of the marine environment, and spent every free minute at the local Race Rocks Marine Reserve, diving and sailing along the south coast of Vancouver Island.
By the time he left school, Felix had realized that he wanted to pursue a career in underwater science. So, he moved to the west coast of Scotland in 2012 to study Marine Science with Arctic Studies at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). In his second year at university Felix completed an intense five-week course in scientific diving with the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). During this course, research scientists with extensive experience in underwater science inspired Felix to combine his diving skills and inquisitiveness to work in experimental marine ecology. Because of the polar expertise at AWI, Felix also became intrigued about high latitude oceans, and he thus applied to the University Center on Svalbard to spend a year of his undergraduate degree in the Arctic.
His year on Svalbard was a truly transformational experience, with extensive fieldwork including many fieldtrips and two weeklong research cruises in the fields of marine geology, marine biology and Arctic environmental management. Felix consequently chose to dedicate his fourth-year dissertation and research project to the study of climatic variability and ice sheet dynamics in an area of western Svalbard, by means of bathymetric mapping and sedimentological analyses. This reflects his interest in climate change from glacial-interglacial cycles to anthropogenic warming.
Following his first class honours degree from SAMS, he was awarded the prestigious year-long Rolex Our-World Underwater Scholarship for young ocean enthusiasts. During this year of intense travel, Felix joined leading researchers in marine science to survey shellfish populations in Washington state, establish environmental baselines in the Falkland Islands and research how cold-water corals survive in naturally acidified waters of Chilean Patagonia. At the same time, Felix built a strong skillset as a technical diver, training on closed-circuit rebreathers and in overhead environments. His technical abilities allowed him to join exploratory expeditions and dive to depths of 60 m/200 ft, to see marine life that recreational divers cannot reach. At mesophotic depths, Felix is struck by the interconnectedness of life on our planet earth. The waxing and waning of ice sheets that Felix studied in the Arctic causes global (eustatic) sea level changes. These changes are evident in the geomorphology of tropical coral reefs, and must have played an important role for the evolution of life from shallow to mesophotic reefs. Consequently, Felix is extremely excited to work along with evolutionary biologist Dr. Sonia J. Rowley, on the description and monitoring of these reefs under changing environmental conditions.
Felix realizes that while we cannot control the environment, we can manage our human interaction with the sea. Consequently, Felix has enrolled as an MSc candidate in an EU funded programme on marine spatial planning, a novel approach to inform policy making in our oceans. He aims to analyse the environmental information that Sonia’s work in the Senyavin Islands, FSM, has revealed, to help marine protected area designation and management.
Felix's summary experience during the Expeditions to Pohnpei in 2017 & 2018