Having the opportunity to do marine science in another country seemed like a lush daydream. These experiences seemed to be a rarity, and only available in the most prestigious of institutions. The moment I received confirmation of my flight to Mozambique, I reveled in the fact that this dream had become my own reality.
Starting on June 24th, I wandered through each airport I encountered with wide eyes and an open mind. It was my first time in the Eastern hemisphere, and I was doing my best to absorb everything that came into view! The changes in landscape, language, and climate continued to unfold before me as we approached Mozambique. After 2 days of traveling, we finally arrived at the province of Inhambane, where our summer escapade would begin.
Our expedition took place in the temperate area of Guinjata Bay. Our rooms overlooked a pristine beach, of which seemed almost untouched. Over the span of 6 weeks, our expedition included a variety of scientific and extracurricular activities. As a scientist, I was able to strengthen my skills in drone-based aerial imaging, data collection, and got to do countless coral reef transects. We had memorable introductions to Mozambican culture, close and personal encounters with the wildlife, and even got to explore the city of Tofo.
During this time, my admiration for ocean life and marine biology was intensified. The vastness of species diversity redirected my focus from microplastics and crabs, to coral reefs and algae. After becoming PADI Open Water certified, I came in contact with animals that I would have never imagined. Video footage of sea animals doesn’t quite capture what it’s like to view them in their natural habitat. Prior to this trip, I had never seen a whale shark in person. One of the most notable memories I had was getting to swim up close to a fully-grown whale shark.
We happened to take a boat ride towards Coral Gardens, a reef that was south of Guinjata Bay, in efforts to observe ocean life. A drone was being used to spot any animals that swam beneath the boat. Suddenly, our attention was directed to a massive shadow that the drone had spotted: a large whale shark! With our snorkeling gear on board, we quietly slipped into the water to get a closer look. After putting my mask and snorkel on, it took a bit of mental preparation to look underwater. I was definitely glad I did. There it was, in all of its beauty, and looking quite unbothered. The whale shark seemed to be completely still, using the least of its swimming power to cruise along. I, however, was kicking for my life to keep up with it. As I got a better view, time seemed to slow down. I became aware of the fact that I was having an experience that comes very seldomly. I was captivated by its beauty and remarkable size. 6 weeks ago, I could have never predicted something like this would happen.
Through this experience, my childhood dream of becoming a marine biologist had further materialized. I am beyond grateful for the positive experiences that were shared, the genuine connections made, and the lessons learned. It was a luxury to have my expenses paid to travel abroad while doing something I love.
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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