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Meet Dr. Shaili Johri...

Shaili is a marine biologist with a research focus in conservation genomics of sharks and rays. She uses variation in the DNA of sharks, rays and other wildlife to identify their species, assess population heath and to trace illegal fisheries and wildlife trade. She works at the forefront of developing and deploying genomic tools to reduce knowledge gaps in biodiversity conservation, through cross-sector collaborations, capacity building, and outreach. Shaili wears many hats as President of the Society for Conservation Biology's Marine Program, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, a scuba diver, a wildlife forensic scientist, an educator getting students from diverse backgrounds excited about marine sciences, a community outreach and engagement person, a nature, art, history and archaeology explorer, a not so bad cook, a struggling pottery maker and more.

How do you connect with water?

You will find me diving, snorkeling, swimming or at the least dipping in water at any chance I get. All of my trips for work and leisure are strongly biased towards a water body. There is a strong sense of calm and peace when I am in the sea, below the surface. I also find it deeply satisfying to connect with local communities whose lives are closely integrated with marine or freshwater ecosystems. I am always curious to learn about the community and their cultural heritage along with their ways to preserve and conserve it. I often try to rationalize this strong urge and curiosity to learn about history and culture. I think that given many parts of the world, including India, are experiencing an erosion of their rich cultural heritage, I, may be subconsciously, yearn to save a piece of the past/present and take with me for safekeeping.

What fuels your love for the ocean?

It's the striking, almost other worldly feel of the geology, biodiversity and scale of life in oceans, lakes and rivers which gets me excited and unnerved every single time. When I am diving, the feeling of weightlessness along with the ability to 'fly' across the seascape amidst the most fascinating marine species and geological structures, which have both evolved over an astronomical timescale, is the most enchanting and my favorite reason for being at sea. It's like journeying through millennia and sailing through a different universe!
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