Doctoral student Danielle Orrell leaning over boat to grab fishDoctoral student Danielle Orrell has received the Women of Fisheries Gives Back Award. Photo by Mark Ziembicki.

Advocacy earns award for marine biology student

Danielle Orrell has been recognized with the Women of Fisheries Gives Back Award, an early career award from Women of Fisheries, Inc.

The PhD student of integrative biology has made a career travelling to remote communities to research the spatial ecology of animals to improve fish management. During her time studying at the University of Windsor, Orrell’s research has taken her to Africa, the Arctic, and Ascension Island in the south Atlantic Ocean.

Most recently she spent a year living on Ascension studying the spatial and dietary ecology of two recreationally important fishery species, the rock hind grouper (Epinephelus adscensionis) and the yellow spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa).

“I’m studying spatial ecology — where you find animals and the conditions that constrain where you find them — and these two fish species are really important to the local community in terms of culture, food, and fun,” says Orrell.

“With the support of the Ascension Government Conservation and Fisheries Directorate and the island community, I was also able to collect food web samples which will provide the first blueprint of the Ascension Island nearshore food web which is critical for its management.”

With the US$250 award money, Orrell plans to buy a wet suit and complete her scuba instructor certification. She says diving is cost prohibitive and she wants to support programs which aim to offer local community members and school groups the opportunity to learn to dive.

“I am a firm believer that fostering a bond between individuals and their local environment using scuba diving increases environmental stewardship and adherence with fisheries management and conservation objectives which aim to conserve these very environments,” says Orrell.

“In places I’ve worked I’ve always wanted to instruct, as it offers the opportunity to inspire the next generation of marine biologists.”

Orrell’s supervisor Nigel Hussey is a professor of integrative biology and a researcher with the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research.

“Receiving an award such as this one recognizes Danielle’s incredible talents and research in her career to date,” says Dr. Hussey.

“I have no doubt over the positive impact she will have on marine science and conservation in the future, and I am very excited to see her continue to take giant strides.”

During her time at UWindsor, Orrell has also created Queer in STEM, a community group for those identifying as LGBTQIA2S+ across science, technology, maths, and engineering (STEM) fields. She says in addition to continuing her advocacy in marine stewardship, she plans to continue her advocacy for LGBTQIA2S+ representation in fisheries science.

“During my time living in the remote communities, I formed strong local partnerships and friendships which gave me the confidence to come out as a queer woman and when I came back to Windsor, I knew I wanted to create a better and safer environment and bridge the gap between departments.

“Building community, especially in a pandemic, it’s important to find people who have similar experiences to your own.”

In the future she hopes to continue this advocacy while working in the field of marine science which will have direct fisheries management applications. To learn more about Queer in STEM, check out its Instagram @queerinstem, twitter @queerinstem21, or drop an email to

—Sara Elliott