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Upasana Ganguly

Science/Data Team
Graduate Student
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

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

For my dissertation project, I am studying the evolution of a specialized group of octocorals, the sea pens. I am looking into their evolutionary and biogeographic history using both genetic and genomic data. I am also involved in deep-sea biodiversity characterization studies as well.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

Growing up in India, I have been fascinated by Nature in all her forms especially the marine world . Observing different kinds of organisms around, noting their behavior, learning about various processes in the natural world were by favorite activities. I had always aspired to work in nature sciences and conservation and hence chose to study Zoology for my bachelors degree. My interest in marine biology finally took roots when I discovered that there was an option for me to opt for Marine Sciences for my Masters. Before that, it had always seemed too fantastic an idea to be able to study the marine system, especially given where I come from and being a young woman who aspired to be a marine biologist. When I started my Ph.D, it allowed me to study the largest and mostly unknown and unexplored ecosystems on this planet, the deep-sea and it has one my greatest adventures/experiences since.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

The intricate complexities and patterns in Nature have been the biggest influence in continuing my journey in this field along with the support/guidance of some of my teachers'/ mentors' encouragement along the way.

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

Getting to observe and see the deep-sea ecosystems, their biodiversity, the magnificent coral communities are some of the the most fascinating aspect of my work. I enjoy getting to study these deep-sea corals and discovering the various patterns in the evolution of the present-day diversity.

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

I have been using samples collected by the OET team for my studies and have become involved with the expeditions in due course.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I have had the opportunity to be a part of several ecological/conservation projects in India and be trained in several aspects of research and field work. These projects include tiger-human conflict mitigation study, ecological impacts of nomadic communities on local biodiversity study, study on the impact of mid-ocean circulations on biotic and abiotic factors leading to monsoon in India etc. My voluntary work with animal rescue and rehabilitation over the years has also taught me valuable lessons on working with people, managing difficult and demanding situations.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Zoology -- University of Calcutta 2012; 

Masters of Science in Marine Science with specialization in Marine Biology -- University of Calcutta 2014; 

Masters of Science in Biology -- University of Louisiana at Lafayette 2021

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy reading and listening to various kinds of music; love to paint and have taken up gardening as a hobby in recent years. I love hiking, kayaking, bird watching, photography and exploring nature per se. I co-run an animal rescue and rehabilitation organization in Kolkata, India.

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

It is important to keep an open mind and learn about various aspects of conducting research such as data management and analyses, statistical modeling, managing field work and being curious about the topics that interest one and the happenings of the world around in general.


Upasana participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: