Published on 5 August 2015
A University of the Sunshine Coast student is sharing her passion for marine conservation in a unique – and stylish – way.
Steph Gabriel, 26, is in her final year of a Bachelor of Environmental Science at USC and is also the founder of local swimwear label OceanZen Bikini.
Steph said she was inspired to study Environmental Science while living in the Cayman Islands.
“I landed a job leading snorkel tours with stingrays and during that time, I learned a lot about the environment and the importance of conservation,” she said.
“That was my first taste of being an environmentalist. I hadn’t studied since high school, so I thought I’d come back to Australia and do a degree in that field.”
Steph, who grew up in Sydney, said she chose USC because it allowed her to live by the ocean and enjoy the Sunshine Coast lifestyle while completing her degree.
During this time she noticed a gap in the swimwear market for active, environmentally conscious women.
“I love to surf and also spend a lot of time snorkelling and diving, so I know how hard it is to find a bikini that stays on in the water,” she said.
“By designing beautiful swimwear that appeals to ocean-loving women, I can also use the brand as a platform to raise awareness about the importance of marine conservation and to encourage customers to support campaigns and projects. It’s an opportunity to combine the two things I love.”
Steph designed the most recent range during a six-month exchange to the Galapagos Islands in 2014, where she gained hands-on experience researching animal life as part of USC’s Study Overseas Program.
She said she hoped that founding a business while at university would assist her as she pursues a career in environmental conservation.
“My environmental science degree and knowledge of marine conservation is what sets OceanZen Bikini apart from other brands,” she said. “Likewise, I’m confident the experience of setting up a business will help open doors for me as a graduate.”
— Jarna Baudinette