Salty Science is a team of four marine scientists who will row across the Atlantic Ocean this year as part of the 2023 World’s Toughest Row. Connected through their research, education, and love for the ocean, Isabelle was Chantale’s PhD supervisor, and Chantale later became Lauren and Noelle’s professor during their undergraduate studies. Their paths in marine ecology have remained intertwined as they continue working to conserve our vital oceans. They are raising money for three marine organizations tackling some of the biggest ocean conservation challenges that also have a strong educational component. These organizations include Shellback Expeditions, Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, and Greenwave.
Meet the Team...
Noelle Helder, along with other teammates, was new to rowing when she first signed on to the idea of building an ocean rowing team. But as a marine ecologist and all-around outdoorswoman, she is a perfect fit.
Noelle is a marine ecologist, geospatial specialist, scuba divemaster, outdoor adventure guide, dog lover, and self-described type 2 fun enthusiast. After studying marine biology at the University of South Florida (where she met teammates Lauren and Chantale), she spent several years bouncing between scientific field stations in the Caribbean studying coral reef ecosystems and outdoor adventure lodges in Alaska, guiding trips in the mountains. She now lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, in a humble hobbit hole (seriously) and is a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. You can find her flying drones to map Alaska’s coastlines, towing oceanographic equipment behind research vessels in the Arctic, or being towed on her fat bike by the world’s greatest husky, Timber.
Isabelle Côté was born to a family of fishermen, sailors, and captains, so a career around the water was almost inevitable. She was a competitive swimmer for a decade, but learning to scuba dive partway through her undergraduate degree in marine biology at McGill University sealed her fate.
Fast forward 30 years, and she is a world-renowned marine ecologist who has made an impressive contribution to our understanding of marine ecosystems. She has conducted research around the globe and inspired many students in marine science along the way, including Chantale!
When she’s not studying the oceans, Isabelle spends her time open water swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, canoeing, rowing, boating, and running long-distance in the coastal mountain range in British Columbia, Canada. She is also a proud mother of two amazing young women.
Chantale Bégin grew up in Québec, Canada, and decided to be a marine biologist after a random opportunity to descend 800ft below the surface of the St. Lawrence Estuary in a submersible when she was just 16 years old.
Since then, she has dived and sailed extensively throughout the Eastern Caribbean, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific while teaching marine biology and oceanography. Though also new to rowing, Chantale is an avid outrigger canoer and has extensive experience paddling in French Polynesia, Vancouver, and Florida.
After finishing her Ph.D. under the guidance of Isabelle, she became an instructor at the University of South Florida and a National Geographic Explorer, all while raising two awesome kids, Zoë and Exie. Chantale also co-founded Shellback Expeditions, a non-profit organization that conducts marine research, monitoring, and conservation projects and scientific diving field courses in the Eastern Caribbean.
Lauren Shea has spent her entire life around the ocean, and after she learned that you could have a job studying life below the surface, she knew what she wanted to do. She studied marine biology at the University of South Florida and met two of her closest friends and mentors, Noelle and Chantale.
After working on a variety of marine research projects around the world, she decided to take up sailing full-time aboard a sailing school ship (the same one that Chantale had once worked on). She completed multiple ocean crossings and was fortunate to spend many more hours underwater in remote places.
On her 27th birthday, she was wakeskating outside English Harbor, Antigua, when she saw the first rowboat to finish the 2020 Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge (now The World's Toughest Row.) That was where this whole journey started.
Lauren then moved to northern Norway to work as a skipper on sailing expedition yachts in Norway and Svalbard. These days, she is completing a master’s degree at the University of British Columbia, where she is conducting research in global fisheries economics.
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