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Alexandra Watts

(Research Assistant, Whale Shark Programme, MMF Mozambique)

 

Alexandra Watts Research Assistant Whale Shark Programme Mozambique.Originally from the Isle of Wight, South England, Alex grew up on beautiful farmland and swimming off stunning beaches. After school she buckled down to a biology undergrad and afterwards progressed into her clinical trade as a veterinary nurse. Looking for more wildlife based encounters, she moved to a farm in South Africa working as a horseback safari guide for almost two years. Here she became involved with big game capture and transport on and off the farm with the local vet. There were several breeding and conservation projects in the area, sadly dealing with the conservation issue of rhino poaching.

 

During this time Alex decided to pursue a more scientific conservation role so returned to the UK to study conservation biology. This allowed her to experience many conservation based disciplines, and was drawn towards population genetics for her thesis. Data collection for several projects found her back in Africa in the Ngorongoro Crater and the Great Rift Valley, and more recently in a tiny sailboat, sailing across the South Pacific Ocean. Here she became immersed in the marine world.  The view to continue in this field lead to talks with Dr. Simon Pierce and the Marine Megafauna Foundation. Now she is assisting with tissue sampling for diet analysis and future genetic projects, GPS data collection for presence/absence studies, contributing to the Whale Shark photo ID database, hopefully embarking on tagging projects later this year and eventually developing her own research project.

 

Azevedo Jaime

(Nemos Pequenos Vilanculos, Education Programme, MMF Mozambique)

 

Azevedo Jaime Nemos Pequenos Vilanculos.Azevedo currently works for Tilizinwe Bazaruto, a sustainability community project of Pestana Bazaruto Lodge on Bazaruto Island.

 

“I love the ocean, marine animals and all sea-life, so when MMF’s Nemos Pequenos program arrived in Bazaruto to train children and adults as guardians of the ocean through swimming and conservaton training, I signed up to be a part of it so that I could learn. Also to help my people in my area to learn the value of the lives of other animals besides humans, to help in promoting awareness about ocean conservation and protecting marine ecosystems. It was a great privilege and opportunity to join the MMF family, and I am proud to be part of this program that is saving lives (human and non-human) in our beautiful Mozambican coastline.”

 

Calum Murie

(Research Assistant, Manta Ray Programme, MMF Mozambique)

 

Calum Murie Research Assistant Manta Ray Programme Mozambique.Calum is a marine biologist and wildlife enthusiast from Great Britain. His interest in marine conservation was sparked at an early age, when his parents traveled to many coastal regions and educated him on the local marine life. He began his undergraduate degree in marine biology in 2010, during which he completed the initial study on manta ray cleaning ecology, a driving factor of manta ray visits to dive sites worldwide. This project sparked an interest towards manta rays that has only grown. During his masters year (2014-2015) he contacted the Marine Megafauna Foundation to enquire if they had any positions available following his graduation. They only had positions available for an immediate start, so he left the United Kingdom and decided to finish the final six months of his masters degree whilst working in the role of manta ray research assistant. His research in Mozambique will help to identify the driving factors that attract manta rays to our reefs and reef ecosystems around the globe.

 

Cathy Cronje

(Director of Swimming, Nemos Pequenos, Education Programme, MMF Mozambique)

 

Cathy Cronje (Director of Swimming Nemos Pequenos volunteer MMF.Cathy first came to Mozambique in 2006 and immediately fell in love with the country and its beautiful people. It then became her dream to live and work in the country, so she learned to dive. “Once I had seen what was under the surface of the ocean I was hooked.”

 

Cathy has been teaching swimming for over 20 years and runs her own swimming school in South Africa. After many visits to Mozambique, Cathy joined the Marine Megafauna Foundation’s Nemos Pequenos program as the Director of Swimming. She is involved in training local Mozambicans to become swimming instructors, as well as helping to run the education program as a whole.

 

“Nelson Mandela wrote that education is the most powerful weapon in changing the world and I completely believe this to true. I believe that educating the people and especially the children about their special heritage, the ocean, is one of the most effective ways to help conserve this coastline.

 

Working with the community is an integral part of the program and it is incredibly rewarding.  In the time I have been with Nemos Pequenos I have seen perceptions change and minds open with wonder in the children that we work with.

 

This has also been an amazing opportunity for the local instructors who we have trained and I look forward to being able to train many more in the future who will in turn be able to pass on the essential life skill of swimming as well as the knowledge about the ocean to the children of Mozambique.

 

 

Emildo Patricio

(Nemos Pequenos Vilanculos, Education Programme, MMF Mozambique)

 

Emildo Patricio Nemos Pequenos Vilanculos volunteer Mozambique.Emildo is a young Mozambican, born in the district of Vilanculos, Inhambane Province.

 

“Since I was a child, I have enjoyed studying and learning. I finished my general secondary education in 2012, and in 2013 started working as a teacher for the Tilizinwe Bazaruto community project on Bazaruto Island, which helps the local people in various areas emphasizing education and health. At the invitation of MMF in February 2014 I joined the Nemos Pequenos program as a trainee instructor of swimming and marine conservation. I’m enjoying what I do by Tilizinwe in partnership with MMF. Knowing the MMF team has given me the opportunity to explore the ocean, learn more about the animals that live in it and why it is so important to protect them. Working in the sea is wonderful to me, and I am excited to learn more so I can share with others the knowledge I acquire. I would like to be diver master or teacher in marine conservation.”

 

Libby Bowles

(MantaMatcher Regional Manager, Manta Ray Program – MMF Global)

 

Libby Bowles MantaMatcher Regional Manager MMF Global.Libby’s passion for conservation stems from studying animal behavior at university, working at the Zoological Society of London and teaching a myriad of animal-loving primary school children in the UK.

 

Deciding that she had to be more directly involved, Libby headed to Mexico, where she managed a Global Vision International (GVI) marine conservation expedition base.  There she drove boats, taught scientific survey methods, taught PADI courses up to Divemaster and engendered a love of marine photography through her teaching of this underwater specialty.  After a year in Mexico, she moved to the Seychelles GVI base, lapping up the challenge of new creatures, both underwater and terrestrial.

 

Wanting to learn more about photography and videography, Libby spent a season working as an underwater videographer back in Mexico before falling in love with manta rays whilst diving in Hawaii.  She settled for some years in New Zealand, where she gained video and photo editing skills working at the world’s highest cliff jump; quite a change of scenery.

Libby joined MMF in early 2012 as Office Manager and Manta Ray Research Assistant. In 2015 Libby set sail from Mozambique to work globally with marine megafauna and spread the good word of MMF and MantaMatcher.  Cliché as it may be, Libby wants to make a difference and is very proud to be part of the Marine Megafauna Foundation as it strives for protection of her favorite sea creatures. 

 

 

 

Nina Constable

(In-house Media, MMF Global)

 

Nina Constable In-house Media MMF Global.

While studying for her undergraduate degree in English literature, Nina found herself drawn to the darkroom. Passionate about photography and travel writing from a young age, Nina went on to complete an MA in Documentary Filmmaking at Bristol University, for which she spent two months in Morocco filming a documentary focused on Muslim female surfers.She has since been working as freelance photographer and filmmaker, working with small businesses, charities and the National Trust. Her interest in both social and nature documentary, combined with her love for the ocean, means she has found her perfect role here at MMF as our director of in-house media.

 

Ric Parker

(Manta Ray Assistant, Manta Ray Programme, Thailand)

 

Ric Parker Manta Ray Assistant volunteer Thailand.Ric is originally from the un-tropical seaside town of Blackpool in the North-west of England. After college and eight years working as an illustrator in Munich, Germany, he gave up the rat race to pursue his scuba diving dreams and relocated to the tropical seaside town of Khao Lak in Thailand in 2004.
In 2005 he had his first encounter with Giant Manta Rays, not realising what a life changing moment this would turn out to be. With many more manta ray encounters, Ric’s affection for these majestic animals grew, but also a strong awareness of their importance. Witnessing shark populations dwindle locally it became apparent that this should not become a trend with manta ray populations.
Ric met Andrea in 2010 whilst tour leader on a live-aboard dive vessel visiting both Thai and Myanmar waters. Andrea was a guest onboard during her worldwide expedition to satellite tag giant manta rays. Andrea’s unending passion for mantas was a massive inspiration for Ric and subsequent Ray of Hope Expeditions with Andrea and Fabrice taught him that he could help make a difference.
Ric was over the moon to join MMF in May 2015. The opportunity gives him even greater enthusiasm to continue what he loves doing the most: not only diving with manta rays, but helping to promote and collect data for MantaMatcher in Thailand and continue his role arranging annual Ray of Hope Expeditions to Myanmar and Thailand. As a dive instructor Ric will also teach the Manta Speciality and continue to hold his manta educational presentations.

 

Rob Perryman

(Research Assistant, Manta Ray Programme, MMF Indonesia)

 

Rob Perryman Research Assistant volunteer MMF Indonesia.

Rob joined the MMF team as part of a new manta ray project based in Indonesia, in partnership with Barefoot Conservation. He completed his masters thesis project on the structure of the local manta ray population around the beautiful Raja Ampat islands in 2014, and has now returned to continue researching the manta rays that live in the enchanting waters.

 

Rob has experience in both terrestrial and marine field biology, ranging from tree frog genetics and African chameleon conservation to capture release work with moray eels and chimpanzee trekking. He discovered his love for manta rays when he completed his divemaster in Tofo Beach in 2012, and wanted to study them ever since. He is excited to be working in such a fantastic place learning more about these stunning creatures every day.

 

Sabrina Weiss

(Media and Digital Content Officer, MMF Global)

 

p - 03 smallOriginally from Switzerland, Sabrina has been travelling the world in search of intriguing nature and wildlife and places where she can dive into the blue. She was lucky enough to become a certified diver at a young age during a family vacation in the Maldives and has since dived with megafauna across Asia, the Red Sea and Caribbean. After completing her master’s degree in communication psychology at the London School of Economics in 2013, Sabrina worked as an aviation PR at London Heathrow Airport. Eager to explore Africa and tackle new challenges combining her love for media and the ocean, Sabrina joined MMF in January 2015 as Media & Digital Content Officer.

 

Sasha Ayton

(Manta Ray Research Assistant, MMF Mozambique)

 

Sasha Ayton Manta Ray Research Assistant Mozambique.

Growing up on the stunning and unique coastline around Albany, Western Australia, Sasha developed a love for the natural environment from a young age. This passion for the environment is what inspired her to enrol in a Bachelor or Environmental Science at the University of Western Australia. Subsequently, Sasha enrolled in an Honours research project in conservation biology. After graduating in 2014, Sasha took some time off to travel and it is then that she completed her advanced diver course in Thailand. While she has always been intrigued by the marine environment it wasn’t until she learnt to SCUBA dive that she really appreciated the beauty and complexity of the marine environment. It was on one of her first dives in the Maldives that she was lucky enough to encounter several manta rays and ever since then she has been fascinated by these majestic creatures. This fascination lead to Sasha pursuing a role with MMF. In October, 2015 Sasha was thrilled to become one of the Manta Ray Research Assistants. During her time in Mozambique Sasha hopes to contribute to the study and conservation of manta rays and assist in many of the other exciting projects MMF is implementing.

 

Steve Roper

(Creative Web Designer, MMF Global)

 

Steve Roper Creative Web Designer volunteer MMF.

Steve’s passion for conservation stems from a lifelong relationship with the ocean. As a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Steve has taught scuba diving in Belize for several years and has led the World Wildlife Fund on two expeditions to the barrier reef in Belize.

Deciding that he wanted to be more directly involved, Steve approached the Marine Megafauna Foundation in late 2011 to re-brand the organization, which led to our new website you enjoy today. He has been a part of our team ever since.

 

Steve has twice been named the Best in Canada for Creative Marketing and has worked with Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity and CUSO International, creating memorable and successful direct mail campaigns for those organizations prior to joining the Marine Megafauna Foundation.

 

Steve has also traveled extensively on his scuba diving voyages, spending time in Fiji, the Cayman Islands, Roatan, the British Virgin Islands as well as two year stints in St. Martin, FWI and Bermuda.

 

Steve joined MMF in early 2013 as our Creative Web Director and enjoys the opportunity to utilize his skills assisting the Marine Megafauna Foundation broaden it’s global reach as the premier steward of marine species such as sharks, rays, marine mammals and turtles.

 

Thanda Ko Gyi

(Research Assistant, Manta Ray Programme, MMF Myanmar)

 

Thanda Ko Gyi

Thanda was born in Myanmar and moved to Sydney to study at the University of New South Wales. Through the UNSW dive club, Thanda had the opportunity to explore the rich and colourful underwater world of Australia’s East Coast, from the clear blue water of Narooma (diving with seals and whales) to the southern coral cays of the Great Barrier Reef.

 

In 2013, Thanda decided to return to her home country Myanmar to explore its waters and to help spread awareness about marine conservation. The journey back to Myanmar took her to the warm waters of Thailand, where she successfully certified as a dive master, and also to the stunning Pacific islands of Vanuatu and Raja Ampat.

 

It was in Raja Ampat, on Arborek Island, that Thanda went through what felt like a once in a life time experience and became very passionate about manta rays, feeling truly inspired by the conservation work that Barefoot Conservation and Marine Megafauna Foundation scientists were doing. Today, Thanda is supporting MMF’s work in Myanmar and Thailand.

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