The crew at Ocean Life Education are an interesting bunch who all share one great passion – a love of the ocean and a strong desire to share their passion and educate people about the ocean and what we can all do to protect it.

Read on to find out who we are and why we love all things related to the big blue…


Richard Coward

Title: Director of Education          Studied: Bachelor of Marine Science, Griffith University & Dip.Ed., USC

“I’ve always been incredibly passionate about the marine environment. I love my job, working with children and adults to educate and inspire them to love the ocean and to want to protect it”.

Richard has extensive experience managing exhibits in local and overseas aquariums, working with sharks, seals, penguins, turtles, sea jellies, fish, octopus and invertebrates to name a few.  He has been involved in research projects such as buoyancy syndrome turtle research, shark research and breeding programs.

Memorable Ocean Experience: Assisting with a whale rescue in Coolum back in 1996 after the calf had become stuck on a sand bank.

Favourite Ocean Creature: Well, that’s tricky as there are so many diverse and amazing creatures out there…but if I had to pick, I guess it would be the dolphin or octopus. Dolphin, because of their intelligence and playful nature. Octopus, also because of their intelligence and also their amazing ability to camouflage against any habitat.


Tracey Coward

Title: Business Manager          Studied: Masters in Business Administration

“I’m proud to be playing a part in nurturing young environmental leaders of tomorrow. I’ve watched my kids grow up sharing our love for animals and the natural environment. It’s so important for children to get the opportunity to experience these things first-hand”.

Memorable Ocean Experience: “I love getting in the ocean and checking out the marine life. I recently went snorkelling with humpback whales and manta rays at Lady Elliot Island with my three (grown up!) kids, which was an incredible thing to do together”.

Favourite Ocean Creature: Humpback whales and manta rays. I’ve been lucky enought to get close to both in their natural habitat. They seem curious and intelligent.


Breoni J

Title: Marine Education Officer Breoni

“Growing up by the beach, I have always believed that there’s something magical about the ocean. It’s full of weird, wonderful and misunderstood creatures. If I can share my love and see kids light up with curiosity and intrigue, that’s just one small step closer to protecting our natural world.”

Memorable ocean experience – when I was volunteering at a sea turtle rescue and rehab centre in the Maldives I assisted the release of one of our patients back into the water. Watching her swim away into the deep is a moment I’ll always treasure.

Favourite ocean creature – I admire the intelligence of dolphins but I’ve always had a soft spot for sea turtles. There’s just something majestic about their prehistoric looks and I love watching the hatchlings make that tough trek down the beach to the water. Their ability to navigate the seas for migration using magnetic fields to then return to the same nesting sites (sometimes even to the beach they hatched) impresses me and there’s just still so much to learn about them. But with humans being their biggest threat, I hope I can help contribute to their survival in a small way by making people fall in love with them like I do and showing that with some small changes we can make a big difference!

Amber Paulsen

Title: Marine Education Officer          Studied: Bachelor of Psychology, UQ

“I’m a real water baby and love swimming and surfing in the waves with friends. I love the ocean because it’s so much fun and so different to land. It really inspires me when I see children get excited about meeting our marine animals, particularly the turtles. Their eyes open wide and they are so curious and ask some great questions”.

Memorable Ocean Experience: I have many but probably snorkelling in Fiji. The water is calm and clear and the coral is beautiful.

Favorite Ocean Creature: It’s got to be the dolphin. They have so much personality and are cheeky, curious and intelligent and beautiful swimmers.

A word on conservation – “A little goes a long way, so please pick up rubbish”.


Tayla Dhu

Title: Marine Education Officer          Studies: Bachelor of Mathematics/Science (Marine Biology & Applied Mathematics), UQ Tayla Dhu

“Having spent the majority of my life near tropical marine oceans, I developed a keen interest and love for marine biology and ecology at a very early age. I’m passionate about inspiring the next generation to love and appreciate the ocean to ensure it will be healthy for years to come.”

Most memorable ocean experience: “One of my earliest and most memorable experiences was snorkelling in Jellyfish Lake in Palau as a young kid. Being surrounded by harmless sea jellies as far as the eye can see is such a surreal experience, and one I’ll never forget!”

Favourite Ocean Creature: “Tricky question, but technically it’s two – pistol shrimp and gobies. These shrimp and gobies live together in a symbiotic relationship, with the shrimp digging out shelter to share with the goby and the goby providing protection for the shrimp from predators. It’s so fascinating how the two completely different species work and live together in harmony!”


Melissa Staines Melissa Staines

Title: Marine Education Officer          Studied: Bachelor of Science (Honours) with Advanced Major in Marine Biology

“I have spent over seven years dedicating my life to studying marine animals and investigating the threats that they face. Communicating science has also become a huge passion of mine. If we want to make real change, we have to inspire others to care about our oceans and protect its inhabitants, big and small. ”

I have extensive experience in teaching marine science and ecology to both university and school students. In my research, I have worked primarily with nesting sea turtles across Queensland and marine invertebrates in Quandamooka (Moreton Bay). My research primarily focuses on the effects of climate change on the sex ratios of sea turtle populations across Asia-Pacific and I have also investigated the breeding activity of adult green sea turtles using drones at Heron Island. I am also passionate about underwater macro photography and spend much of my free time either diving or rock pooling in search of colourful species of nudibranchs, some of which are only a few millimetres long.

Memorable Ocean Experience: “Whilst visiting a remote island in Papua New Guinea, some of my friends and I decided to go for a night snorkel on the coral reef. Just by chance, the trip coincided with a coral spawning event and the water was filled with life! The surface of the water was also glowing with thousands of bioluminescent micro-organisms, making the whole experience feel like a scene from a Disney movie.”

Favourite Ocean Creature: “Although I am very passionate about sea turtle conservation and have spent much of my career studying and handling sea turtles… my favourite sea animal is the Manta Ray. They are graceful, highly social but also very elusive ocean giants. Manta Rays are incredibly intelligent and have the largest brain to body mass ratio of any fish. Most importantly, the first time I swam with mantas was in the Whitsundays. I was 16 years old and it was the moment that I knew that I wanted to become a marine biologist.”

Payton Askew

Title: Marine Education Officer          Studies: Bachelor of Science with majors in Ecology and Marine Biology.

“I’m a massive ocean nerd! I love that there’s so much unknown and excitement under the sea that we don’t get to encounter everyday. Sharing this knowledge and excitement with children is honestly one of the best jobs possible! Fostering this appreciation early on makes all the difference”.

Memorable Ocean Experience – I was extremely lucky to have lived in the Solomon Islands for a few years while growing up. My dad taught me to scuba dive there and seeing all the flourishing marine life was just amazing.

Favourite Ocean Creature – Definitely the nudibranch! There’s something so special about a creature so small yet so intricate and individualistic. They are my favourite creature to come across as you really have to look for them, but when you find them they are such an awesome creature to observe!


Hayley Gee

Title: Marketing & Resources Manager          Studied: Bachelor Business Studies & Diploma in Marketing, UK

“I love the ocean. It’s such an amazing place full of fascinating habitats and life and I’m proud to play a part in trying to protect it for future generations to enjoy”.

Memorable Ocean Experience: I’ve dived in some amazing places, but I think my most memorable dive was my first ever qualified dive. The minute we were at the ocean floor, a three-metre hammerhead shark swam by! I grabbed the dive master by the arm and wouldn’t let go. It was a totally amazing experience! I love sharks and wish the media would appreciate how important they are and stop giving them such a bad press!”.

Favourite Ocean Creature: “This is tricky…it’s a toss-up between the octopus and the humpback whale. Octopus, because they are so clever and versatile and humpback whales because they are so acrobatic and are part of our lives for half the year here on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland”.

Tania Kirby

Title: Business Development          Studied: Bachelor of Early Childhood Studies, Monash University & Advanced Diploma of Community Services Management

“I have spent many years working in early childhood education where I have been passionate about teaching children to respect the environment and all living creatures. Children are naturally curious about sea life and I love being a part of Ocean Life Education to support this learning in children of all ages”

Memorable Ocean Experience: One of my most cherished memories is the time I spent on the Gippsland Peninsula during my youth. It was during those moments that I had the privilege of immersing myself in the wonders of the ocean. Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef also stands out as a memorable experience for me where I was mesmerised by the vibrant colours of the fish, the intricate coral formations, and the diverse marine life that surrounded me.

Favourite Ocean Creature: While my encounters with whales and dolphins have left a lasting impression on me due to their social nature and the care they show for others in their pods, I am equally fascinated by sea jellies. In my earlier years, I encountered numerous sea jellies. Though they may not possess the same social characteristics as whales and dolphins, their presence in the ocean system is crucial – serving as a reminder of the diversity and complexity of marine life and the need to protect these delicate creatures.