Science Biography



René Teresa Campbell








Adelaide, South Australia


Visual Artist/Illustrator, Marine Ecology PhD Candidate




Flinders University (South Australia)


Available upon request

An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment
— Sir David Frederick Attenborough

René's interest in biology and nature arose early on in her life. Since a toddler she was fascinated with the outside world and spent a lot of her time wandering and playing in her backyard surroundings. She had a keen interest in dinosaurs, reptiles and insects, and it wasn't unusual to find René exploring outside collecting caterpillars, chasing butterflies and covered in dirt. At the beach she could be found looking for shells in the sand, exploring rock pools and snorkeling shallow temperate reefs. She spent her years growing up collecting, borrowing and reading an avid collection of non-fiction books and had a tendency to share science facts amongst her friends. 

In early primary school, René discovered she was quite interested in the field of paleontology and geology. She would excavate items from dirt and rocks in her backyard and had an intriguing collection of gemstones she bought over the years. Her interest shifted from prehistoric animals to herpetology (the study of reptiles), which fondly reminded René of the dragons and dinosaurs she drew so often. During this phase, she would look for native skink and gecko species around her home and would observe them. Throughout her entire childhood, René also considered studying entomology (the study of insects) and had absolutely no gripes with creepy crawlies of any kind. She enjoyed studying biology and school field trips and was highly enthusiastic about visiting the South Australian Museum or the Investigator Science and Technology Centre. By the end of her childhood, René had begun to watch BBC documentaries frequently, and thus spawned her admiration for her current idol, Sir David Frederick Attenborough. 

With careful consideration, René decided to pursue tertiary study at the end of 2011 and to follow a scientific career path. She was accepted into a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at Flinders University between 2012 - 2014. She took all her topics very seriously and graduated in early 2015 with an outstanding GPA (High Distinction overall) and was awarded the Chancellor's Letter of Commendation for High Achievement. In February 2015, René took her research endeavors further and was accepted into Honours at Flinders University. Her project was entitled "The population structure of Carcinus maenas and its predation on native benthic species in South Australia." After an intense year, René received a very high First Class Honours and graduated Honours in 2016 with another Chancellor's Letter of Commendation and was awarded a University Medal.

René's scientific interests revolve around marine ecology, invasive species biology, benthic community assemblages, marine invertebrates, conservation and science communication. René had a passion for research and wanted to explore her Honours further, and so decided to take on a PhD, with her acceptance into a full-time PhD program and scholarship in October 2016. She is currently a 2nd-year PhD Candidate being supervised by Professor Sabine Dittmann, Associate Professor Mike Gardner at Flinders University, and also Dr. Marty Deveney at PIRSA Biosecurity. Her PhD is currently entitled "The population biology of invasive Carcinus species (L. Decapoda: Portuniade) in southern Australia."

She previously worked as research assistant in Professor Sabine Dittmann's marine ecology laboratory at Flinders University and has avid experience in field, laboratory and data analysis work. In addition, René works as casual demonstrator for two Marine Biology/Ecology based topics at Flinders University. Her Student Evaluations of Teaching in 2016/17 regarded her as enthusiastic, informative and approachable in her demonstrating style. René has helped co-author a Government Report on C. maenas presence and distribution in Gulf St. Vincent, and has started writing her first two scientific manuscripts for review. Currently René has presented her Honours findings at the AMSA symposium (2015), the South Australian Coastal Conference (2015) and the International Conference for Marine Bioinvasions in Sydney (2016). She has also worked on casual contracts regarding benthic faunal assemblages in the Coorong and Murray Mouth (2015), Carcinus maenas monitoring in Gulf St. Vincent (2015-16), and a pilot study on faunal assemblages in different habitats and Marine Protected Areas in Coffin Bay, Eyre Peninsula (2016).

Outside of her research, René is an PADI-certified Adventure SCUBA diver, and the owner of a South Australian recreational boat operator's licence. She is currently part of the Flinders University Boating and Diving Committee, and a student member for the Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA), Flinders University Marine Biology Association (FUMBA). She is also on the organising committee for the AMSA 2018 International Conference in Adelaide, with roles ranging from logo and banner design, to marketing and social event planning. In addition, René looks forward to combining her passions in Art and Science by branching into Science Communication, and has already started many commissions and collaborations in this area. Her latest science illustration and communication work was 19 book illustrations for "The Effective Scientist - A Handy Guide to a Successful Academic Career" written by Professor Corey Bradshaw - Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology at Flinders University, and creator of Conservation Bytes. The book has been published by The University of Cambridge Press and is due out early-mid 2018.

Please note: some of the images shown above often include recreational field trips undertaken outside of René's marine biology career and do not necessarily reflect the work she does at University.