It was a snowy cold start to the new year for me and Janneman in the United States. We had traveled all the way to California’s famous Lake Tahoe for the Marine Megafauna’s first annual board meeting. Having only officially become a 501c3 charity organization last year in the USA, our newly appointed board met for the first time to discuss the milestones we have already achieved and the bright future of our budding Foundation.
First on the agenda was to re-structure and enhance our growing organization. In a bid to better support our hardworking scientists we have sought new ways to assist them across the globe. At our main base in Mozambique where we have permanent staff and researchers hard at work, we have created new programs to better assist them with data collection. Building on our core concept of ‘citizen science’ we have established two new programs with the help of Casa Barry Lodge and Peri Peri Divers in Tofo. Our new Eco-Tour program will allow tourists to engage with researchers while on holiday, assisting them in the field by collecting much needed data on whale sharks, manta rays and sea turtles. For people interested in a longer volunteer option, we have partnered with Underwater Africa to offer 4,8,12, and 16-week scientific volunteer programs for students and marine enthusiasts. Operating like its own mini-research lab, Underwater Africa, based in Tofo Beach, will run throughout the year, collecting and uploading data for MMF under the watchful eye of our resident biologists. Due to the popularity of my international research expeditions I have decided to expand Ray of Hope Expeditions and will be offering more trips to manta rays hotspots across the globe each year.
The board also agreed that we need to more frequently celebrate the achievements of the Foundation’s successful research programs by disseminating our findings at more scientific conferences and sharing the highlights of our work with the public. With a mind to do just that in 2013 our researchers will be reaching out to media across the globe, sharing our scientific triumphs and spreading our message of marine conservation. To kick it off Oprah magazine will cover my research in an article in the March issue of “O”, hitting newsstands in the US in late February. I am honored to have been interview by Oprah’s team and grateful to have an unprecedented platform to speak to women about being a marine researcher in a largely male dominated field.
One of my personal life goals is to inspire more female scientists, researchers and conservationists. Particularly in developing nations, women often fail to make it into University or get sidelined once they are there. I have joined forces with Ocean Revolution in Mozambique to inspire more female scientists to take an interest in marine related research and help assist with conservation challenges in the future. I am also fortunate to be involved in a new documentary series which celebrates inspirational marine scientists and seeks to inspire a new generation of female researchers. The series, called Ocean GEMS, has already begun filming and in 2013/14 will follow me and my team as we travel across the world conducting research on the world’s largest ray species, the giant manta, in far flung corners of the globe including mainland Ecuador and Komodo, Indonesia.
MMF will also be hitting the road in 2013 looking for additional support for our work from individual donors and corporate sponsors. As we continue to grow and expand there is an impending need for additional funding and support for our researchers and conservationists. If you are a fan of our work and want to get more involved please see the “Support Us” page.
As Janneman and I arrived back in the sweltering heat of Africa we realized that while our Foundation continues to expand globally, Mozambique is truly our home and we are grateful for the opportunity to live and work along this magnificent coastline. I am tremendously proud of all of our scientists and staff and I hope that you continue to track our work over the next year. I can promise wonderful things from this team as we strive to protect the world’s biggest fishes andmost vulnerable marine megafauna!