At ISZL, a fundamental part of our mission is to empower our learners to contribute positively to the world, whether on a global scale or within their communities. Eva-Maria Bønnelycke's journey illustrates how an ISZL education can be transformative and highlights the pivotal role of dedicated teachers. Having graduated from ISZL in 2015, completing the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, Eva set out on a trailblazing path making a significant impact in marine science and conservation, effectively improving her corner of the world.
Embracing Education at ISZL
While many of Eva’s high school memories are shaped by friendships and extracurricular activities, it was the teachers who played a pivotal role in making her time at ISZL amazing. She reflects on how they supported and encouraged her in a positive environment.
“I could write a list of teachers who supported and encouraged me to come out of my shell and do my best. I am so grateful for the supportive environment that they created for students.”
Unearthing a Love for Marine Life
Eva had always held a love for the ocean and marine animals. Yet, it was at school, specifically through the IB Biology programme under the guidance of Mr Thomas, that her interest in a wide range of biological subjects was developed. Her classes and experiences at ISZL served as the initial spark that would set her on a path to study molecular biology, physiology, and marine life.
One significant milestone during her time at ISZL was a personal development week (PDW) to a sea turtle sanctuary in Greece. This experience provided her with the opportunity to witness marine conservation efforts at a local level, first-hand. It left a lasting impression and fueled her passion for marine life and conservation.
Educational Pursuits Beyond ISZL
After graduating from high school, Eva pursued a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science at Eckerd College in Florida. Her journey as a marine science enthusiast deepened as she worked as an intern in a dolphin research programme during her undergraduate studies. This hands-on experience provided her with a unique insight into the world of marine mammals.
Eva's academic and professional journey then took her to the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where she pursued a Master of Science in Marine Mammal Science. She specialised in using optical imaging technology to analyse blood flow and oxygenation patterns in seal brains. It was a challenging and intellectually rewarding pursuit that further solidified her commitment to marine science.
Challenges and Triumphs
Eva's journey was not without its challenges. She graduated from her Master's programme during the pandemic, a time when funding for research projects and assistantships was limited. To continue her pursuit of marine science, Eva worked as a laboratory assistant at a biomedical firm in Switzerland for six months.
Eva's passion for marine science continued as she returned to St. Andrews to work as a Research Assistant, focusing on the study of brain blood flow and oxygenation patterns in seals and human freedivers. This role allowed her to participate in fieldwork in various locations, including Croatia, Italy, the Shetland Islands, and the remote sub-Antarctic Kerguelen Islands.
Notably, her involvement in the Kerguelen Islands research required her to be away for three months with a French research organisation.
“As a field team member, I helped catch and instrument southern elephant seals with remote sensing tags to record their movement, ecology, and brain oxygenation patterns over time.”
Continuing the Journey
Eva is now studying for a PhD at the University of St. Andrews, focusing on the physiological responses of grey seals to disturbance through biomedical optics, energetic and behavioural data, and blood biomarkers. Her research aims to contribute to the conservation of marine top predators.
Throughout her academic and professional career, Eva has engaged in numerous laboratory and field research experiences. She has participated in boat-based photo-ID and biopsy surveys of bottlenose dolphin populations, analysed dolphin acoustics, conducted oceanographic sampling, extracted and analysed fish eggs, and tested biomedical technologies.
Eva's story is an inspiration to all aspiring scientists and conservationists. Her story illustrates the importance of dedicated educators and the impact of immersive learning experiences in shaping young minds. Her commitment to marine science and her contributions to the field reflect the possibilities that unfold when passion and education intersect.
Eva is a true testament to the power of following one's passion and the enduring influence of a supportive educational environment.