After years of people pestering me to start documenting my work in blogs, I have finally built up the courage to sit down and begin telling my story. My first blog comes as I begin to digest the information I read today in the recently released “Reefs at Risk Revisited” report. A pretty disturbing read and something that adds to that bubble of guilt that grows inside me as I wonder if I’m just not doing enough to conserve our marine ecosystems. This is a pretty crazy notion considering I’ve dedicated the last 4 years to marine science and conservation! I have to admit that I can’t really be sure exactly what set me on a career of monitoring and promoting the protection our marine life. People who dedicate so much time to conservation usually have such magical beginnings to their journey. For me there was no life changing moment, no hugely inspirational talk by a wonderfully stimulating person or horrifying images of marine life suffering at the hands of human ignorance. It was quite simply a love of exploring the underwater world thrown in with a solid foundation of a deep respect for Science.
My introduction to the marine environment wasn’t the romantic, enlightening experience I would have liked for the sake of this blog. A 14 year old girl shoehorned into a membrane dry suit (which had certainly fitted her perfectly at the beginning of the season), trying desperately to find her sea legs on a corkscrewing boat, before making a flailing entry into the bubbling waters of the English Channel encouraged by a hearty shove from behind by her father. Surprisingly, I was hooked! Mix this with the ambitious determination of a teenager, and I progressed through the BSAC qualification ladder at lightening speed and was instructing by the age of 16.
Now for another admission, and one I dread the Dive Officer of my BSAC Club finding out, I’ve never really enjoyed diving for the sport or the adventure. It’s always presented to me an opportunity for discovery and education beginning with teaching people to dive in a Leisure Centre swimming pool in a small town in the middle of England. As much as I found instructing hugely rewarding, I knew that it wouldn’t keep me entertained forever.
So, in 2002 I began a Degree in Marine Biology at one of the best Universities for the subject in the UK; Newcastle Upon Tyne. Over the next three years a whole new world of weird and wonderful creatures, bizarre lifecycles and evolutionary tales and theories of threats with terrifyingly serious consequences opened up before me. It was a hard but extremely enjoyable slog and I achieved a first-class honours degree with an extra pat on the back when I was presented with the “Prize for the Graduate with Outstanding Performance”. I left Newcastle with an overwhelming notion that this was going to be my golden ticket to take on and explore the world.
How the story then travels to me sitting in a little Filipino house writing this before preparing for another day of diving and training for my work with the local dive centres on the Green Fins Project, will most definitely take another blog or two to finish.