My name is Francesca and I’m from New Jersey in the United States. Since I was little, I have always been passionate about the ocean and marine mammals, thanks in part to the summers I spent on the beaches of southern Italy while visiting my relatives. Driven by my passion and curiosity, I was constantly reading and watching documentaries to learn all that I could about marine mammals, especially cetaceans. As I got older and began to read scientific journals, I was greatly inspired by some of the well-known cetacean researchers like Ken Norris, Hal Whitehead, Bernd Wursig, and Ken Balcomb. After high school, I continued my studies at university where I earned a bachelor’s in biological oceanography. Before my final semester, I studied abroad in the Bahamas where I did photo-identification and behavioral observations of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis). This was a wonderful experience and pivotal moment where I became certain that I wanted to pursue a career in marine mammal biology and conservation.
As a master’s student, my thesis work investigated microplastics in the gut of stranded bottlenose dolphins in South Carolina. Through this research, I collaborated and volunteered with the local stranding network to obtain my samples. Eventually I began working as the marine mammal stranding technician, a position I maintained also after graduating and earning my master’s degree. As part of the job, I regularly performed necropsies on a wide variety of cetacean species – not the most glamorous job, but extremely fascinating nonetheless! I am so lucky to have had the experience to gain a deeper understanding of the physiology and anatomy of cetaceans in this role.
As an intern with Delfini del Ponente, I want to build upon my current experience in marine mammal research and gain practical skills for conducting surveys and photo-identification of both dolphins and whales. In addition, I’m excited to be in the Mediterranean to see some different species from what I am used to (especially fin whales!). Last but not least, I’m looking forward to this opportunity to meet and network with fellow marine mammal scientists and similarly passionate researchers.