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Merrick Ekins
Collection Manager, Sessile Marine Invertebrates, Queensland Museum

Qualifications: BSc, Hons (Botany) 1993, PhD (Botany) 2000

FROM lapping tidal flows to the deepest depths of the sea live thousands of sponges – many of which still remain a mystery to modern science. It is discovering more about these porous creatures and their role in ecology that fascinates UQ Science graduate Merrick Ekins.

As collection manager of Sessile Marine Invertebrates in the Queensland Museum biodiversity program, Merrick’s role focuses on the collection, preservation and scientific classification of the likes of sponges and soft corals. His work takes him and a group of the museum’s other scientists on deep-sea, scuba diving adventures about three times a year.

From the Great Barrier Reef’s crystal-clear waters off Lizard and Heron islands to the ex- HMAS Brisbane dive site at Mooloolaba, it is the process of seeking out new species that, unsurprisingly, Merrick enjoys most. “I definitely like the field work and scuba diving most about my role,” he says.

Since 1994, the museum’s scientists have discovered more than 1000 new species of organisms living on the Australian seabed – an experience Merrick describes as “fantastic”. Merrick, who previously worked as a science communicator for Channel 9’s documentary-makers, says his Honours year was what stood out as most useful in his UQ experience. “That was when I got to do actual, hands-on science – a passion which remains with me today.”

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