Having recently finished my bachelors in Biology last fall, I had a goal of finding
immersive marine science work and, hopefully, something that also gave me the opportunity to finally study abroad in the new year. MISS ended up being the bridge to that experience. At the beginning of the MISS Fellows application process, I was unable to decide on one specific program I’d pick for myself since each opportunity sounded enticing; but now, it’s clear to me that Love the Oceans was the right fit all along.
For my fellowship, I collected data as a volunteer this summer for Love the Oceans, a
marine conservation nonprofit organization located in Inhambane, Mozambique. Through a holistic and evidence-based approach to conservation, LTO’s aim is to establish a marine protected area in Jangamo Bay, Inhambane by collecting data for coral reef, fisheries, megafauna, ocean trash, and community outreach research. The volunteers who come on LTO’s annual expeditions carry out these surveys, with any day ranging from diving and whale watching to cataloging local catch and collecting beach trash. However the day starts, it usually ends with logging the data collected, followed by dinner at the restaurant next door. The nonprofit also has many community-led projects in the area that are meant to introduce alternative livelihoods as long-term solutions, ranging from swimming lessons for children, women’s health surveys, and sponsoring young ocean conservationists.
It was enlightening to see to how much of LTO’s work depends on their relationship to
and ties within the local community—the local fishermen allow volunteers to measure their catch in hopes of conserving the ocean as a resource, teaching swimming opens the door for ocean-related careers in the future, and marine conservation education raises awareness and allows locals to co-exist with the ocean sustainably. As a part of our community work, we spent two weeks painting classrooms at the local primary school, and our finished products ranged from fish with fingerprints as scales, a map of Africa, and my personal favorite, the Mozambique national anthem. With time, I learned how LTO’s strategies stand out as an example of how essential community engagement is to effective integrated conservation, and I am grateful to MISS for the opportunity to observe how their projects function in person.
Safe to say, this summer was filled with more new experiences, memories, and lessons
that I can keep track of. Mozambique’s winter feels like a brisk California fall, and July is right when humpback whale season picks up. Every day was an adventure—some days we’d hear whales on our dives and others we’d get to see whale sharks and manta rays. On the weekends, we had our choice of activities, including but not limited to more dives, surf lessons, fish tagging, or catching an occasional sunset. I’ve never slept as well as I’ve had in Mozambique—that’s how exhaustive some days felt. But the nights came with the clearest skies and dazzling galaxies, and every morning came with a hot sun and energy for more adventures. I was also able to complete my advanced open water PADI certification, which was probably my favorite part of this experience. Furthering my dive education has been one of my career goals for a long time, so having the opportunity to do it on some of the most pristine reefs in Africa
was a bucket list item, for sure.
In a remote place working with a sociable group of people, the summer began to feel like a true bonding experience—so much so that I had trouble saying goodbye! What made this experience memorable was the exposure I had to people in conservation and learning about their careers. I met many peers and colleagues at different stages in their lives that gave me a much-needed insight into the future ahead of me. I had a hard time networking during the pandemic and making career connections to support me post-grad, so this fellowship was able to give me a boost by providing an early-career opportunity that would’ve been inaccessible otherwise. I relate to MISS as a member because of the shared experiences of women of color in marine science: lack of diversity, representation, and equity. Therefore, it was also uplifting to work with an organization working to empower girls into STEM and brighter futures by championing their education and involvement in the community. Through this fellowship, I was able to gauge myself as a field scientist and make my own impact in the Jangamo Bay community, along with meeting dedicated, intellectual, and genuine people in marine conservation. In the future, I can see myself going back and/or pursuing a similar career, and can only thank MISS for opening that door and the opportunity to explore.
MISS provides a community and funded opportunities for gender minorities of color who wish to enter the field of shark sciences. We aim to show that there are many gender minorities of color succeeding in and interested in this field.
We fundraise and apply for grants to create paid opportunities to attempt to knock down the financial barrier into shark sciences. We encourage other organizations in our field to do the same.
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