When she was just 12 years old, an impressionable Cathy Lucas, now associate professor in marine biology at the University of Southampton, met Sir David Attenborough. He’d come to talk to students about his 1979 landmark wildlife series Life on Earth. “I thrust him my copy of his book to sign. He inspired me to go on and study zoology.”
Just back from a research trip to Saudi Arabia, she’s since spent years investigating what makes jellyfish tick – programme makers at the BBC’s latest natural history series Blue Planet II sought her expertise for a segment. Although jellyfish have been around for at least 500m years, they’ve remained the poor relation of marine life, often misrepresented as freakish, alien blobs, says Lucas.
But recent population blooms have piqued scientists’ interest. “Attention is focused on what’s driving this growth in numbers – and the effect this has on the oceans.” Invited to a screening of the Blue Planet II series, she once again heard Attenborough speak and thought: “Here I am, doing this, as my actual job.”