Laura González García, Ph.D.
I’ve been living by the sea all my life. Born on the coast of Galicia (NW Spain), I grew up in a seafarer environment and I was linked to the ocean from young age, first with my family, and later through nautical sports such as rowing, kayaking, diving and sailing. My passion for the ocean and its marine wildlife led me professionally to become a marine biologist and oceanographer, focusing my research on the cetaceans of the Azores. It is in this archipelago where I found the perfect balance to combine my passion for the ocean with my professional expectations.
Over the years I realized the essential need of understanding the reality of our oceans, and therefore the necessity of collecting long-term data to support our knowledge and be able to detect changes and react in consequence. Although with limitations, citizens provide an excellent opportunity to collect this information in the long run. For me, no matter if sailing or whale-watching, any little help is welcome! As an excellent and valuable example, cetacean sightings expand over more than a dozen years now in the Azores, and more than ever, they show imminent changes in species occurrence and distribution that cannot be longer ignore. The link between Science & Tourism is now more important than ever.
In 2010 I joined Futurismo Azores Adventures (São Miguel, Azores) with an internship gaining experience in the field as a whale-watching guide. Initially attracted by the greatness and majesty of cetaceans, and later by the curiosity to learn more about them and their relevant role in the environment. Working with tourism gave me the opportunity to raise awareness about marine conservation among thousands of people from all over the world. However, tourism was still one piece of the equation, and to be fulfilled I resumed my research career using the available whale-watching data to better understand the current situation of cetaceans around the island where I live. Additionally, in parallel to my main research and linked to one of my passions, I founded Sail & Whale in 2016. In 2019, I defended my PhD in “Marine Science, Technology and Management” at the University of Vigo, and I became Head Biologist of Futurismo, where I supervised several students and their master’s and bachelor’s research. I joined the University of the Azores in 2020 as a post-doc researcher, firstly being part of the Azorean Biodiversity Group, and since 2023, of the Institute of Marine Science -OKEANOS. Since then I’ve been working on revaluing the whale watching and the whaling (and whale!) heritage as an important socio-economic asset for the region, discussing new case studies to apply smart subsea cables to monitor the health of our ocean, and mostly, on enhancing the link between Science & Tourism.