Neha Acharya-Patel is an explorer, a passionate marine conservationist, a scientist, and a professional diver. She has participated in field-based science and diving expeditions all over the world with the goal of increasing Ocean understanding and literacy. Presently she is a PhD Candidate in the Helbing Lab at the University of Victoria. Her research revolves around environmental genomics; particularly environmental DNA (eDNA) and its multitude of applications in the marine environment. In 2022 she was an inaugural recipient of the Stephensons Exploration Advancement Grant from the Explorers Club. This opportunity enabled much of her PhD fieldwork
Neha has a background in marine ecology and field research in remote places. She has worked around the globe, from the Great African Lakes studying Cichlid fish, to the -1.5 C waters of the Chilean Antarctic investigating sea sponge microbiomes. She is an avid cold-water enthusiast and works as a contract research SCUBA diver for a variety of projects. In 2019 she was the first Canadian to be awarded the North American Rolex Scholarship of the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society. This experience allowed her a year of exploration and advanced dive training that she uses in the field to this day.
As an interdisciplinarian at heart, Neha’s work spans multiple fields and skillsets, with the common thread of Ocean conservation tying it all together. In 2021, she co-founded the ECOP Canada chapter, the national node of an international programme focused on empowering Early Career Ocean Professionals and bringing their insights to higher level conversations. Through this work and other projects, she is now deeply involved within the Canadian ocean literacy landscape. As part of the next generation of Ocean scientists, outreach and interpretation is a vital aspect of her work.