Fabio DeLeo headshot photo

Fabio De Leo

Science/Data Team
Senior Staff Scientist/Adjunct Professor
Ocean Networks Canada, University of Victoria

Tell us about your work/ research. What kinds of things do you do? 

My research focuses on investigating the vast biological diversity that inhabits the ocean's seafloor (marine benthos). As a benthic ecologist, I specialize in deep-sea habitats, such as submarine canyons, methane seeps, cold-water corals, hydrothermal vents and abyssal plains. I am interested in understanding the environmental constraints that promote the occurrence of deep-sea biodiversity hotspots in the ocean floor, and the effects of potential impacts of human activities such as deep-sea fishing, ocean deoxygenation, and other climate change-related impacts. I have accumulated 25 years of seagoing experience having participated in research cruises in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans and the Mediterranean and Tasman Seas. My experience at sea also includes diving in manned submersibles as deep as 1,200 m in submarine canyons off Hawaii. My role at Ocean Networks Canada includes not only helping to involve top-notch deep-sea researchers with the use of our observatories' infrastructure, but also to analyze ONC data to produce breakthrough scientific knowledge about the functioning, biodiversity, and effects of human-induced change in the ocean. I also hold an Adjunct Assistant Professor position in the Department of Biology at the University of Victoria, and aside from co-supervising undergraduate and graduate students, I lecture on UVic courses about deep-sea biodiversity, human impacts in the deep-ocean, and on the use of ONC's video imagery for science, education and outreach.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

My interest in marine biology and biodiversity started when I was a kid and living near the ocean, surfing, snorkeling and diving.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My father was certainly my biggest motivator and role model who inspired me to pursue my professional dream of becoming a marine biologist. But also, I had a teacher in elementary and high school, Teacher Maurício, who really was an inspiration for me to learn about nature, ecology, and biodiversity in general.

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

The most fascinating aspect of my work is the discovery of new phenomena, species, behaviors, processes and ultimately the establishment of connections between the marine ecosystems and us humans. How can we do better to keep the ocean in a state of proper functioning, balanced productivity, and harmony with all the species that inhabit it?

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I have pretty much followed the academic career path, with a Bachelors' degree in Biological Sciences, a MSc and PhD in Biological Oceanography. However, I worked for periods of time as an environmental consultant for the oil and gas industry back in Brazil. In a first period early in my career I worked on several environmental impact assessment studies identifying marine benthic species from sediment samples and conducting multivariate statistical analyses. In a second and short period after my PhD, I helped Brazil's Oil Company, Petrobras, to optimize their ROV video surveys of deep-water cold-water coral reefs off SE Brazil by selecting the best video annotation and archiving software available at the time.

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program?  

I am a senior scientist with Ocean Networks Canada, who partners with OET to bring the EV Nautilus and ROV Hercules to service our NEPTUNE deep-sea cabled observatory. My first participation on an expedition on the EV Nautilus was back in 2016.

What are your degrees and certifications?

PhD in Biological Oceanography, University of Hawaii at Manoa 2012; Master of Science in Biological Oceanography at University of Sao Paulo, Brazil 2003; Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences at University of Sao Carlos, Brazil 1999.

What are your hobbies?

I love surfing, snowboarding, swimming in the ocean, yoga, kayaking, woodworking, camping, and more recently adventure motorcycling.

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Keep following your aspirations and dreams and seek advice from people that are inspirational to you. Keep working hard and one day will get there! :)


Fabio participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: