In their review of my first book, Poseidon’s Steed, the Economist called me “The aptly named Helen Scales” and I guess they’re right. I do have a bit of a thing about fish (get it?).
Across the airways and in print, I’m noted for my distinctive and occasionally offbeat voice that combines a scuba diver’s devotion to exploring the oceans, a scientist’s geeky attention to detail, a conservationist’s angst about the state of the planet, and a storyteller’s obsession with words and ideas.
I have a Cambridge PhD and a monofin, I’ve drunk champagne with David Attenborough and talked seahorse sex on the Diane Rehm show. I spent four years (on and off) chasing after big fish in Borneo and another year cataloguing marine life surrounding 100 Andaman Sea islands.
These days I write books and articles, I make podcasts and radio, travel the world in search of stories, and do my best to spend as much time as I can in the sea as a scuba diver, free diver and rookie surfer. I’m a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the steering committee for the Museum of Curiosity. I’m also a proud aunt, I sew dresses, grow organic vegetables, put on high heels and dance Argentine tango, play piano, and make a mess in a printmaking studio.
In a nutshell I’m a freelance writer and broadcaster with special interest and expertise in the oceans and the natural world.
I’m also available as an independent media producer for outreach projects.
Here’s a bit more about some of the things I do:
I write about the oceans, the natural world, and science in general in an assortment of traditional and contemporary media spanning books, blogs, websites and magazines.
My first book is about seahorses (Poseidon’s Steed, the story of seahorses from myth to reality. Penguin books). I wrote it because I wanted to dig into the strange fascination people have with these little animals – after all, seahorses are just fish. I wanted to explain how and why male seahorses get pregnant (and no, that doesn’t make them female. Read my book to find out why).
Find out more about Poseidon’s Steed here.
I write regularly for National Geographic News. There are links to some of my articles here.
I’m a contributor at the Seamonster blog, a daily shindig celebrating the oceans in words, pictures, and videos.
I’m a science and natural history broadcaster. I appear regularly on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service.
You can tune into some of my latest radio adventures in the latest series of Saving Species on BBC Radio 4 including when I met the world’s largest species of mainland tortoise.
And for my latest feature on the BBC World Service’s Outlook I went hunting for a seafood delicacy in mangrove forests in the Gambia.
I’ve appeared on NPR including the Diane Rehm Show and the Leonard Lopate Show, National Geographic Radio Weekend, CBC, BBC World Service, ABC Radio National, and BBC Five Live. I also made my debut in comedy radio as a panelist on the BBC’s Museum of Curiosity.
I’m a member of the award-winning science collective known as the Naked Scientists, based out of Cambridge University. In 2010, I hijacked the show and sailed off into the wide blue yonder to launch Naked Oceans, a monthly podcast devoted to ocean science and conservation which came to the end of its second series in 2012.
I studied for my PhD at Cambridge University investigating the lives and loves of a fish called the Napoleon wrasse or humphead wrasse, a rare & endangered coral reef giant. I’m now a marine science consultant specialising in the international wildlife trade, marine habitat protection and biodiversity assessment.
My studies and research have taken me around the world to Malaysian Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia, Madagascar, the Philippines, Belize, and Australia.
For the past 10 years (with my PhD somewhere in the middle) I’ve worked for various conservation groups including WWF, IUCN, TRAFFIC, and Natural England. My research has been published in peer-reviewed journals including Science, the Proceedings of the Royal Society, and Progress in Physical Geography.
I’m a scuba diver and free diver. I try and get myself beneath the waves whenever I can.
I learned to dive in England (my first open water dive was in a freezing inland lake in March, in a 7mm wetsuit… and even that wasn’t enough to put me off the whole thing), spent 2 years sploshing around the chilly waters of my home island before heading off to find out what tropical diving was all about.
Since then I trained in Australia as a PADI Divemaster and explored cold and warm waters around the world including in the UK, Belize, Australia (Ningaloo reef, the Great Barrier Reef, & the Coral Sea), Fiji, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Madagascar.
After more than a decade of scuba diving, I recently decided to train as a free diver. I went to Dahab in Egypt, held my breath for almost 3 minutes, swam down into the blue to 20 metres (60 feet), got my AIDA** certification, and got well and truly addicted. I’ve written here more about my experiences beneath the waves with nothing but a breath of air.
There’s still plenty I want to see and places I want to go. I’ve not yet dived through kelp forests, never dived with a whale (free diving would be especially nice), and I’ve never dived under ice…
I’m also learning to ride longboards so you’ll sometimes find me on top of the waves.