Together We Can
World Oceans Day, June 8th 2019.
Today is World Oceans Day, a day to celebrate together the beauty, the wealth and the promise of the ocean. A day to think about how the ocean affects us, and how we affect the ocean.
We asked three ocean advocates, people who are passionate about exploring, protecting and conserving marine life and the environment, about their work, their inspiration and their relationship with the ocean.
As a biologist and a veterinarian, Claire’s passion has always revolved around the sea and the importance of protecting the marine life that are found within it. After completing her undergraduate course in Biological Sciences at Oxford University she went on to complete her veterinary training at the University of Bristol. During her time in Oxford Claire specialised in marine ecology, and undertook a diving research study on the health status of the coral reef in the Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia following a bleaching event. It was during this time that she developed her love of marine conservation and the ocean and pursued a career within the marine world.
Claire joined the Olive Ridley Project in 2016 and moved to the Maldives to set up the Marine Turtle Rescue Centre, a veterinary clinic dedicated to treating sea turtles that are found entangled in ghost gear, (abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing nets). She has lectured globally on the plight of sea turtles and their injuries as a result of marine debris and ghost gear. Claire regularly attends school assemblies both in Europe and the Maldives to highlight the work of the charity and educate the younger generation on why it is so important to protect our marine world. In 2019 Claire embarked on a 100km paddle board around Baa atoll in the Maldives, with an all-female team to promote the fantastic initiatives already being undertaken within the country to combat plastics in the ocean, Stand Up for Our Seas.
A. “It is extremely important that the UN has chosen to focus on the issue of Gender equality and the Ocean this year as it is such a significant issue for women in science. At veterinary school I was one of over a hundred women, and fewer than twenty men in my year. Women in veterinary medicine are now vastly outnumbering men in the profession in the UK and it is exciting to see the wonderfully varied careers that they are all venturing into. There also a predominance of women in the field of marine biology, (in the Maldives at least). Many of my colleagues are working in the field or for the environmental ministries in the Maldives and are monitoring the coral reefs, the marine life and especially the turtle populations.”
“The Olive Ridley Project’s identification database is also run by Dr Jillian Hudgins who has been a wonderful and supportive colleague to work with. We are very fortunate to be working in ocean conservation and with an animal that we both care so much about. There are however far fewer women in many of the science technology engineering and maths (STEM) careers. I am hopeful that the number of women working in research and science continues to grow.”
“It would be remiss of me not to mention the men that also work with in the Olive Ridley Project. Our team works incredibly well together and we all bring our individual talents and skill-sets to our roles. This balance is important in any working environment. It is essential to remember that gender equality should promote both the similarities and differences between men and women and give both a chance to excel in their positions whilst working together.”
“I have had so many wonderful experiences in the sea, swimming with whale sharks, diving with manta rays and rescuing entangled sea turtles, that I love sharing these breath-taking encounters with others, especially with young children in their schools. Showing pictures and telling stories, especially to the younger generation is so important to me as I hope it inspires them to care about the oceans as much as I do. If you can be fascinated and stirred by something it will become much more meaningful to you and therefore make you far more likely to want to protect it. I especially love being asked questions by girls at schools as often the boys are first to raise their hands. The most thoughtful question was asked only recently by a 6-year-old girl from London, she asked ‘but why do the fishermen leave their nets in the ocean, do they not have somewhere to recycle them?’ Such an insightful and thoughtful question from such a young girl! I hope that by sharing the story of how harmful ghost nets are to sea turtles and by encouraging discussion like the one with this girl, we can create a new generation of ocean ambassadors, both boys and girls alike.”
“I am surrounded by passionate and like-minded women and have found close friends that are striving for the same cause. In February, Saazu, a dive instructor and mother, Dhafy, a personal trainer and ocean advocate, and Cal a veterinarian and a record-breaking paddle-boarder and I embarked on a 100km paddle board in the Maldives to raise awareness for the save our seas campaign. It was empowering to be surrounded by such strong, magnificent women during such a physically exhausting and meaningful expedition. Being part of such a wonderful team and seeing how much these women care about our oceans and protecting it for future generations has only enhanced my passion for doing more to save our seas and I’m looking forward to our next adventure together.”
“I have recently become a member of the incredible OceanCare team and it is just another example of many talented and passionate women working towards protecting our oceans.”
Alexis Chappuis – Unseen Expeditions
“As deep divers, we are the privileged witnesses of thriving life in an underwater world more extreme and unknown to most of the people. Scientists included. We want to help conservation efforts and share our experiences.”
Alexis Chappuis is a French marine biologist, National Geographic Explorer and amateur photographer living in Indonesia. He has conducted various marine ecological studies worldwide and his main interest today relies on using Close-Circuit Rebreather diving for the exploration and study of poorly-known underwater environments, notably Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems. These habitats are particularly difficult to investigate with regular open circuit diving and remain largely unexplored in most parts of the world. As a result, they are usually not considered in conservation planning and marine management policies. From the belief that the better we know, the better we can preserve, Alexis’ work is to raise awareness about the importance, but also the vulnerabilities, of these poorly-known deep coral reef habitats, by studying and documenting their numerous ecological roles.
For this purpose, he co-founded the non-profit organization UNSEEN (“Underwater Scientific Exploration for Education”) based in France and dedicated to innovative and challenging scientific underwater expeditions, unlocking the access to the depths thanks to technical diving. Their first project, “Cleaning Session in the Twilight Zone”, is focusing on deep coral reef ecosystems off the North-East coast of Bali, Indonesia, and is supported by grants from the National Geographic Society and the Institut Français d’Indonésie. Besides documenting for the very first time these Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems, it also evaluates their importance for emblematic megafauna species such as the Bump-head sunfish, Mola alexandrini. Hopefully this project will shed light on those elusive, yet crucial, ecosystems and associated species and will open new research and conservation perspectives to fight more efficiently the current dramatic erosion of marine biodiversity.
A. “I would say to bring them underwater or at least on the water! Unfortunately, it is not always possible… That’s why I deeply believe in images and storytelling to raise global awareness and make people feel more connected to the Oceans, on which we all rely. A nice shot and its caption can have a much wider diffusion and be more accessible and powerful than any scientific article, to illustrate the raw beauty of our Blue Planet and its fragility. It is opening a window on amazing scientific facts such as marine species remarkable behaviours or adaptations they have developed to survive in these unforgiving underwater worlds for example. Images can be inspiring and lead us to think more about the impacts our everyday life has on the Oceans, consequently initiating sustainable changes in our daily behaviour to protect them or at least to stop damaging them further. By triggering feelings such as awe, compassion and curiosity, images can therefore set our minds ready to learn and be a powerful educative tool.”
“I created Sharks4Kids because I genuinely believe that kids are the future. They can and will save sharks. They have a voice and they will be heard. We just need to give them the tools to speak up and take action.”
As founder and president Jillian travels around the world speaking to students at schools, community groups, aquariums and education centres. She teachers students all about sharks, shark science, shark diving and shark conservation. She has visited schools in Singapore, St. Maarten, The Bahamas, The United States, Canada and Guatemala. Each presentation or outreach event always includes a discussion of how kids can get involved and make a difference. There is so much they really can do. She also works with the Sharks4Kids ambassador team, develops new curriculum, organises and leads student field trips and creates new media content for education.
Sharks4Kids has an an amazing team of passionate scientists, divers, photographers, videographers and shark conservationists. Everyone brings their own special skills and share their love of the ocean and knowledge with students and their communities.
“It’s been amazing to see the team grow from 4 people to over 25. I am so proud to work with these remarkable people and to see them sharing their passion and experience with others.“
A. “I feel most connected to the ocean when I am sitting on the bottom after taking a single breath of air from the surface. Everything is quiet and I feel, for just a moment, as though I am part of this incredible world. I especially love these moments when there are sharks around.”
Image Credits: Shark4kids (S4K), Bahamas National Trust (BNT), James Appleton Photography, UNSEEN, National Geographic