My name is Dr. Ryan Kempster, I am a shark biologist and founder of the non-profit organisation Support Our Sharks (SOS). I began my research career in the U.K. where I obtained a B.Sc. (2005) and M.Sc. (2007) in marine biology. After completing my studies, I travelled the world and was fortunate enough to gain experience working for a number of marine conservation organisations. I worked on a range of projects, including mangrove restoration in Thailand, surveying coral reefs in The Bahamas, monitoring fish populations in Fiji and protecting sea turtles nests in Costa Rica. Through these experiences, I had many opportunities to get up close and personal with a number of different shark species, which is how I developed my passion for shark conservation.
In 2010, I took my passion to the next level by applying to do a Ph.D. at the University of Western Australia (UWA). My application was successful and, as a result, I was awarded an international scholarship to complete my research investigating the sensory biology of sharks.
Throughout my time in Australia, I endeavoured to explore many aspects of shark science in addition to my core Ph.D. research on their sensory biology. This allowed me to gain experience in a broad range of fields including taxonomy, sexual selection, biology, ecology and conservation. However, my main focus remained on the understanding of how sharks respond to environmental stimuli, which could help us to understand how sharks will cope with climate change, the effectiveness of captive release programs and the development of appropriate deterrents to keep people safe, and to keep sharks away from areas where they would otherwise be killed.
After successfully completing my Ph.D. in 2014, I was awarded funding from the Western Australia State Government to further my research, with the specific goal of refining and improving shark deterrent technologies to protect both people and sharks.
From surfers to divers, my research has worldwide applications in improving public safety and conserving shark populations for future generations. As most sharks serve as top predators at the pinnacle of the marine food pyramid, they play a critical role in ocean ecosystems. Directly or indirectly they regulate the natural balance of these ecosystems at all levels, and so are an integral part of them. The effects of removing sharks from our oceans, although complex and rather unpredictable, have been shown to be ecologically and economically damaging.