From the Classroom in Canada to a Small Island In Indonesia

I have to admit starting this, this type of writing isn’t exactly my forte, (I never even kept a childhood diary). I find myself way more comfortable in the world of scientific papers; theory, statistics, methods, and results.

I have found myself on the little slice of paradise known as gili air, staying at a personal slice of paradise called villa Nangka the summer before completing my final year of my marine biology degree back home in Canada. Don’t get me wrong I love my university and feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to gain a higher education while so many others, perhaps more deserving than myself are denied the chance. To sit in Biology class after biology class followed by conservation and resource management gets a little tough. To sit and listen to the history of oceanography, the physiology of a fish, and how humanity is ruining the world gets a little frustrating.

Yes, the lessons are incredibly valuable and I understand why they are necessary, but lessons are no action, and I find myself growing anxious wanting to get out into the world and at least attempt to make a difference no matter how small. So with an itch in my step and the stars pulling at my hair, my finger frantically raced across my keyboard until I found an opportunity that sounded too good to be true, Gili shark conservation. I couldn’t sign up fast enough, the six months leading up to leaving felt like an eternity.

The warmth I felt upon arrival is indescribable, with hellos from every local I passed, eager help me in any way they could. To the warm welcome and embrace I received from my new gili shark family. The nerves I felt in the beginning were washed away with every dive I took.

Within three days I had started participating in research and started my divemaster. To participate and work firsthand the world I had spent countless hours in the library learning about had me at a loss for words, long gone were the days of feeling useless in the classroom. Knowing that my small actions in these surveys and the never ending task of inputting all of the information into their appropriate databases will not only aid in shark protection and recovery and in turn have top down trophic effects of the entire ecosystem leading to fish recovery, in this fragile ecosystem, and on top of that help this community that has opened their arms so lovingly to me.

I cannot lie and say every day is perfect, (even the most perfect cake can give you a stomachache) It can be an ear infection, or just the exhaustion that comes from diving every day. Or the compromise between personal morals and understanding those that are very different from oneself. The silent heartbreak that comes from watching fishermen throw ghost nets over a protected reef. Or the kind of rage that fills your every pore as you watch customers intentionally rip up coral, do their best in injure fish, and in general try to destroy what you are working so hard to protect.

What do you do when people don’t know any better? Fail to remember that every action has a reaction? It all comes back to education. Those fishermen are doing what their families have always done for survival. The average person knows no better about the fragility of the marine ecosystem. It is at moments like this I remind myself to take a step back and remember why I am here.

The data collected, the analysis’ made will present the opportunity for heavier protection and enforcement of the area as a whole, and to find a balance and solution for the fishermen to continue their traditions without a significant impact on the marine ecosystem. With this thought I am able to return to my personal paradise.