Helen Scales

Helen Scales is a British marine biologist, broadcaster, and writer.

Helen Scales describing molluscs at the 2015 Cambridge Science Festival

Personal life and educationEdit

Helen Scales learnt to scuba dive when she was 16 as part of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, and from this experience wanted to know more about life underwater.[1]

She studied at St John's College, Cambridge as an undergraduate and holds an M.Sc. in Tropical Coastal Management from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne. Scales was awarded a Ph.D. from St John's College, Cambridge in 2005; her thesis title was Exploitation of coral reef fish for the live reef fish trade. This was particularly about the humphead wrasse. She was able to identify individual fish through the colour patterns on their heads after filming the fish underwater and so study their movement and behaviour.[2][1]


Scales worked for several conservation organisations after gaining her doctorate including the World Wide Fund for Nature, TRAFFIC International, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and Natural England. She was later appointed as a tutor for the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education. Her scientific interests and research focus on marine conservation and the inter-relations between people and oceans, particularly in the context of habitat protection and the international wildlife trade.[2]

Public communicationEdit

Her 2009 book Poseidon's Steed, on seahorses, was described by the reviewer for The Economist as "a fascinating book ... Scales ... explains the myth, biology and ecology of what the Victorians called 'queer fish'."[3] while in National Geographic the reviewer called it "a compelling book about seahorses that makes the case not only for these odd fish but also for the entire ocean."[4]

In October 2011, she appeared on BBC Radio 4's The Museum of Curiosity. Her hypothetical donation to this fictional museum was a tank full of seahorses.[5] In 2013 she spoke at a TEDx event, TEDxLSE, at the London School of Economics.[6] In April 2018, she was a judge for the UK finals of the FameLab competition.[7] In 2021 she was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 programme The Life Scientific.[1]

Selected publicationsEdit

Scales is the author or co-author of scientific publications and book chapters as well as popular science books and magazine articles. These include:

  • Poseidon's steed : the story of seahorses, from myth to reality (2009, Gotham Books, ISBN 9781592404742)
  • The underwater museum : the submerged sculptures of Jason deCaires Taylor / essays by Carlo McCormick and Helen Scales (2014, Chronicle Books, ISBN 9781452118871)
  • Spirals in Time: the secret life and curious afterlife of seashells (2015, Bloomsbury Sigma, ISBN 978-1472911360)
  • Eye of the Shoal: A Fishwatcher's Guide to Life, the Ocean and Everything (2018, Bloomsbury Sigma, ISBN 978-1472936837)
  • Scales, Helen (21 March 2019). Octopuses. illus. Alan Male. London: Ladybird Books. ISBN 978-0-7181-8909-9.
  • Scales, Helen (2021). The Brilliant Abyss. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-5822-2.


  1. ^ a b c "Helen Scales on marine conservation". BBC.
  2. ^ a b "Dr Helen Scales". University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  3. ^ "How Odd, How Lovely". The Economist. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  4. ^ Braun, David (13 September 2009). "Seahorses: Myth and Reality of an Odd Fish". National Geographic. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  5. ^ "Gallery Four". The Museum of Curiosity. QI. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Stories from the Ocean: Helen Scales at TEDxLSE". TED. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  7. ^ FameLab UK Finals 2018.

External linksEdit