Diving into a rewarding career

Chelsea Waters used the knowledge from her science degree to create a research institute dedicated to protecting marine life.

UQ Science graduate Chelsea Waters

In February 2019, Chelsea Waters established the Institute for Marine Research, a non-profit research organisation protecting coastal marine ecosystems in the Philippines.

"Studying at UQ taught me how to think like a scientist, and create relevant research questions and studies on our most pressing issues."

Chelsea created the Institute for Marine Research after identifying a crucial need for enhanced evidence-based marine conservation to protect reefs surrounding remote island communities of the Philippines from over-exploitation, destructive fishing, coastal development and sedimentation.

Prior to establishing her own institute for marine research, Chelsea worked in marine conservation and research for various non-profit organisations around the world, from Madagascar, to Honduras. She has also worked as a dive instructor and naturalist guide on the Great Barrier Reef.

What are your core responsibilities and duties in your current role?

Creating the Institute, I had responsibilities that were initially way out of my comfort zone. I was creating our account system, a human resources file, a website, as well as overseeing the construction process of our in-field headquarters.

On top of this I was setting up our first research project, designing both the equipment and methodology that would be utilised to do so, and a subsequent training protocol to ensure our staff and research assistants are maintaining the quality of our research project.

But more importantly, I was building relationships. Building relationships between fellow non-profit organisations in the area, Universities, the local schools, and our Local Government Unit (LGU).

Now as Director, I share my time between both coordinating and conducting lectures and underwater survey training for Undergraduate students that are trained to assist the Institute with all components of our research project, as well as working with our data and research outputs. I also manage the day to day base operations, and have a team of both International and Filipino workers that I manage to make our vision a reality.

How did your studies at UQ help prepare you for your career?

Studying at UQ helped me to design this project in a vast number of ways. Firstly, having Moreton Bay and the Southern Great Barrier Reef on our doorstep, there was a heavy focus on sub/tropical marine ecosystems. By the end of my undergraduate degree I had a deep understanding of not only the ecology but the physiology of these ecosystems, and the sensitivity of them towards a huge array of threats and disturbances.

This helped me to focus my area of research interest towards coral reefs, and more specifically, corals.

My Honours year allowed me to build on this knowledge by conducting research on major real world issues that are currently affecting coral reef ecosystems on a global scale.

Chelsea is the Creator and Director of the Institute for Marine Research, a grass roots non-profit organisation that aims to use scientific evidence to educate, transform, and encourage locally led marine conservation strategies within the Philippines.

Chelsea is the Creator and Director of the Institute for Marine Research, a grass roots non-profit organisation that aims to educate, transform, and encourage locally led marine conservation strategies within the Philippines.

Chelsea is the Creator and Director of the Institute for Marine Research, a grass roots non-profit organisation that aims to educate, transform, and encourage locally led marine conservation strategies within the Philippines.

Chelsea and her team conduct long-term reef monitoring to examine coral health and fine-scale ecosystem changes in the area.

Chelsea and her team conduct long-term reef monitoring to examine coral health and fine-scale ecosystem changes in the area.

Chelsea and her team conduct long-term reef monitoring to examine coral health and fine-scale ecosystem changes in the area.

Chelsea and her team conduct their research on the reefs off Apo Island and Dauin Municipality in Negros Oriental, The Philippines.  This region is in the heart of the coral triangle which is home to 76% of the world's coral species.

Chelsea and her team conduct their research on the reefs off Apo Island and Dauin Municipality in Negros Oriental, The Philippines. This region is in the heart of the coral triangle which is home to 76% of the world's coral species.

Chelsea and her team conduct their research on the reefs off Apo Island and Dauin Municipality in Negros Oriental, The Philippines. This region is in the heart of the coral triangle which is home to 76% of the world's coral species.

Chelsea says that building close relationships with the local communities is vital for developing locally-led, evidence-based conservation strategies that creates environmental and economic security for remote island communities.

Chelsea says that building close relationships with the local communities is vital for developing locally-led, evidence-based conservation strategies that creates environmental and economic security for remote island communities.

Chelsea says that building close relationships with the local communities is vital for developing locally-led, evidence-based conservation strategies that creates environmental and economic security for remote island communities.

Prior to establishing her own Marine Research Institute, Chelsea worked as a Marine Biologist and Dive Instructor at Lady Musgrave Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Prior to establishing her own Marine Research Institute, Chelsea worked as a Marine Biologist and Dive Instructor at Lady Musgrave Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Prior to establishing her own Marine Research Institute, Chelsea worked as a Marine Biologist and Dive Instructor at Lady Musgrave Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Chelsea had the opportunity to gain vital field and research experience at UQ's Heron Island Research Station as part of her degree.

Chelsea had the opportunity to gain vital field and research experience at UQ's Heron Island Research Station as part of her degree.

Chelsea had the opportunity to gain vital field and research experience at UQ's Heron Island Research Station as part of her degree.

About Chelsea Waters

UQ qualifications

Chelsea was awarded the Deans Commendation for her Honours Year Project which focused on the effects of temperature and partial pressure CO2 (as predicted by the IPCC) over seasonal light regimes on corals within the Great Barrier Reef.


Current role

  • Creator and Director of the Institute for Marine Research, Dauin Muncipality, Negros Oriental, Philippines

Previous professional experience

  • Project Scientist at Coral Cay Conservation, Philippines
  • Coral Reef Ecology Lecturer and Course Coordinator at Operation Wallacea, Madagascar
  • Marine Biologist and Dive Instructor at Lady Musgrave Island, Australia
  • Research Assistant at Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Centre, Utila, Honduras
  • Research Assistant at Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Heron Island, Australia

Chelsea Waters

Where will science take you?

View other profiles to explore the pathways that many of UQ’s science graduates have taken in fields such as agriculture, biotechnology, business, food science, marine and environmental sciences, research, veterinary science and more.

Visit the Future Students website to learn more about UQ's Science and Mathematics programs.