Abbie Hine MSc, Founder & Managing Director of WiseOceans
Abbie is a marine educator and coral researcher, with over 15 years experience of educating people of all ages and abilities and many more years submerged and passionately embracing everything marine conservation related. Abbie has spent many years working in various countries on coral reef research expeditions; coordinating volunteers, surveys and science training, and liaising with in-country partners and providing advice on coastal management issues. Following these years teaching volunteers to identify and survey vulnerable reefs, Abbie undertook a MSc. in Tropical Coastal Management. Her final research paper looked into marine education being used as a form of management to reduce damage to coral reefs; the paper was presented at the 2007 International Pacific Marine Educators Conference (IPMEC) in Hawaii.
Abbie has also worked as a resident marine biologist and environmental advisor for luxury resorts in Maldives for three years. During this time, working knowledge of an educational programme for resort guests was obtained. Simultaneously, Abbie worked on a coral propagation project. This project visibly showed that not only did the reef’s health increase, but it also acted as an extensive source of education for the guests and local schools, and as a tool to spread awareness. Since then Abbie has worked in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a reef restoration and education project for Save our Seas Foundation (SOSF). The education element of this project expanded and moved to Seychelles where Abbie currently coordinates a large marine awareness project in association with SOSF. In 2011 Abbie founded WiseOceans, a concept she’d been mulling around for many years.
Abbie has worked on a number of different research and educational projects over the years including: coral recruitment, reef monitoring, reef rehabilitation projects, turtle nesting surveys, manta ray research, whale shark and plankton research, fish identification, abundance and diversity studies.
“Education is a brilliant way to increase our enjoyment of the oceans and life within them. But more importantly, education is key for helping to preserve the marine environment. Education can stir up a sense of wonder for the oceans’ beauty and a compassion for their vulnerability. Ultimately aiming to encourage a sense of ownership for the essential resource that is our oceans. Growing up by the coast, nature and the sea played a big role in driving me towards a career in marine science. Learning to dive clinched the deal and has resulted in me spending many years submerged and passionately embracing everything marine conservation related. Every dive, every snorkel, every walk along the coast you learn something new, inspired by how incredible the natural world is and there is nothing quite like sharing that with other people and helping them learn to conserve the wonders around them.
Lindsay Sullivan MSc, Director of Resort Marine Education & Development
Originally from the UK, Lindsay completed a degree in mathematics in 2002 before heading off for a gap year of travelling which, as fate would have it, included learning to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. The seed was sown… Lindsay returned to the UK, worked, lived and saved money, and began her marine career as a volunteer on a reef conservation project in Mexico in 2006. The nine months spent diving off the Yucatan Peninsula sealed the deal – marine all the way – and Lindsay returned to the UK to again work and save, before completing a MSc. in Applied Marine Science at the University of Plymouth. This done, Lindsay headed to the Indian Ocean, to spend a month as a volunteer reef ranger on Chumbe Island in Zanzibar. This island eco-resort is surrounded by a reef which, owing to its long-term protection, looks like a reef on steroids! Absolutely beautiful.
Lindsay moved to the Seychelles (for the first time) in 2008 to run the science aspects of a volunteer-led reef conservation project and here gained an in-depth knowledge of the marine life and habitats of the Seychelles. 18 months later and the next stop in the Indian Ocean is the Maldives, where Lindsay spent a year as the resident marine biologist at a resort on South Male atoll. Having predominantly worked with other reef-enthusiasts, this was a real change and Lindsay found that educating resort guests mostly meant going back to basics – beginning with ‘coral is an animal’! Yet giving people their first experience of the reef is very rewarding and it was here that the value of education and awareness-raising, amongst the general public, the casual sea-users, really became clear.
Lindsay returned to the UK in 2011 to work for the Wildlife Trusts in the north-west of England, engaging the public and policy-makers alike on the conservation of the Irish Sea – a new challenge after the coral reefs of the Indian Ocean! Yet the UK seas face the same issues – lack of knowledge of the wonderful and diverse wildlife and habitats, over-exploitation, lack of protection. And before the UK public will stand up and fight for their seas, a greater understanding of their value is needed.
Two years later, with the absolute belief that education is the key, Lindsay joined WiseOceans and returned to the Indian Ocean initially as a WiseOceans Marine Educator at Four Seasons Resort Seychelles. Lindsay is now WiseOceans’ Director of Resort Education and Development.
“Although I have always loved the sea, I was a late starter into the marine world, and didn’t do my first snorkel until I was 21. And I was surprisingly nervous! But I can still remember it now, and it truly changed my life. There is a whole world beneath the ocean surface that is just mesmerising. I want to be a part of the team of people working to keep it that way.”
Charlotte Orba, Education and Communications Officer
Charlotte’s initial career was as a jazz and pop piano player. Alongside performing she developed a career in education, which led to becoming Head of Department for degrees in Popular Music and Music Production at Leeds College of Music. For many, being a musician is a dream career however she always felt there was something more and an idle moment during a lunch break led to taking (what was meant to be) a career break and joining a three month volunteer marine conservation project in Seychelles.
Three months volunteering and then a further four months working as an intern for the project convinced Charlotte that diving, snorkelling and the marine world was where she belonged. During this time she gained an intimate knowledge of Seychelles underwater life. Conducting surveys and leading training dives in the pristine environment of the marine park of Bay Ternay and the reefs of Mahé, Seychelles taught her the importance of maintaining and conserving the intricate relationships of the coral reef. Initially specialising in coral (she is a self confessed coral geek!) Charlotte also helped to survey and teach reef fishes and invertebrates.
As well as working with committed environmentalists, scientists and divers Charlotte has also spent time educating the next generation of Seychellois ocean lovers through workshops and lessons for school children from across the island. It’s never too early to start spreading the word. So now the opportunity has come to combine her career in education with her love of the marine environment (as well as her love for Seychelles). Charlotte firmly believes in the power of education – just a one off encounter between a teacher and an eager learner can spark a lifetime’s passion – or even just raise awareness so that future choices might be more sensitive to the environmental pressures the oceans face.
“The ability to make a difference to the planet we live on and the oceans within was the impetus for my career change from music to marine conservation.”
Georgina Beresford, Reef Restoration Project Officer (Four Seasons Resort Seychelles)
Georgina has loved the sea from her first dip at the age of two. Since then she has become a slightly better swimmer and has been lucky enough to work on marine projects around the world. She started off volunteering with a marine conservation project in Fiji 2006 as part of her gap year travels before heading back to the UK to do an Environmental Science degree. Having been thoroughly hooked on diving in her gap year Georgina completed a commercial diving course during her degree.
After a stint working as a Sustainability Officer for a surf school in Devon and making use of her diving qualification working with the underwater camera crew on a film, Georgina took time to experience life in the field with conservation NGO’s. In Indonesia she worked as a research assistant on reef restoration project and in Madagascar interned with a community based conservation project. Here the opportunity to coordinate a series of lectures at the local university and work with local fishing communities sparked her interest in marine education and the wish to spread marine awareness.
After this Georgina ventured back into cold waters and into the world of tourism working for a Dive School on the beautiful Isles of Scilly where she spent most of her time as a seal snorkeling guide (which usually ended in getting hugged and nibbled by inquisitive seals). She then took her growing interest in marine social science and hit the books again, completing an MSc in Tropical Coastal Management in 2013. During and after this masters she worked on a regional coral reef research project in the Caribbean, where she swapped scuba diving for interviewing local fishing and tourism communities, researching coral reefs and coastal communities. Georgina started working for WiseOceans in Summer 2014 and hasn’t looked back since.
“Being in the water, seeing the amazing creatures in the ocean, talking with people who work and depend on the sea is inspiring. It’s so rewarding to see someone learn something new, change their attitude about the oceans, and to know how vulnerable these important ecosystems are and the threats they face is all the drive you need to keep working.”
Genevieve Gammage, Wise Work Administrator
Genevieve has had a passion for the natural world from a very young age, influenced by holidays spent exploring rock pools and family trips to London’s Natural History Museum. She discovered her love for the ocean whilst learning to dive on the Great Barrier Reef in 2004, during a year travelling and working around Australia. This eventually led to the decision to volunteer on a marine conservation project in the Seychelles in 2007. A trip that was meant to last for three months ended up lasting for over two years, during this time she gained valuable knowledge of Indian Ocean coral reef species and monitoring techniques, became a PADI diving instructor, managed the community marine education programme and eventually became Project Manager. In 2009 she moved to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, using her experience to manage another marine conservation project and discover the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.
Being a home girl at heart, Gen decided that 2011 was the year to move back to the UK. She spent six months living in a tiny caravan on the North Norfolk coast volunteering for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, building her knowledge of UK wildlife conservation and habitat management. The following summer was spent managing one of the Trust’s visitor centres on the Norfolk Broads and sharing her knowledge with the public.
Gen has recently become a mum and is enjoying all that family life has to offer. She might not be in the ocean very often these days but her passion for the marine environment and preserving it for future generations is still as strong as ever. She joins the WiseOceans team as Wise Work Administrator. Check out the marine conservation opportunities we have up on our Wise Work pages.
“I have had a passion for the natural world since I was tiny. Back then it was the little creatures in the garden that held my attention, these days it’s the little creatures in the ocean. There is never a dull moment and it’s a lifetime of discovery.”
Krishna Ashok, Marine Educator (Four Seasons Resort Seychelles)
Having grown up by the South-East coast of India, Krishna has been a budding marine naturalist since he was eight years old. He first “volunteered” at his school’s marine aquarium section to feed the fish. His interest in the marine environment increased along with his age, and he took on the role of Volunteer Co-ordinator at the marine aquarium section during his undergraduation in Marine Biology.
Wanting to continue his academic journey, he pursued his MSc in International Marine Environmental Consultancy at Newcastle University in the UK. To make the best of his time abroad and to gain some work experience, he worked as the Outreach Program Assistant for the Marine Science department. Interacting with students to get them interested in the marine environment is when he initially realised how much he enjoyed sharing his excitement for the sea with others. He volunteered with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue as a Marine Mammal Medic and with ORCA and WDC Shorewatch as a Shore-Based Marine Mammal Observer to gain some field experience.
Returning to India in 2014, he worked as a Research Assistant for a month conducting boat based surveys and social surveys, with local fishermen, to assess the diversity and abundance of marine mammals off the East coast of India. He then came across the excellent opportunity to work as the Education Officer with the Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ Environmental Team. Conducting workshops for middle school students all the way up to undergraduate students he realised several things: 1) what a strong tool education can be to increase environmental awareness and to promote conservation, 2) how much he enjoys being outdoors and sharing his excitement for the outdoors with other people, and 3) that he wants a future in environmental education.
His new role, as WiseOceans Marine Educator at Four Seasons Resort Seychelles, perfectly combines his interest in the marine environment and his passion to use education as a tool for conservation. He cannot wait to explore a new part of the world and use his experience and knowledge to immerse himself in marine environmental education.
“I used to go swimming in the sea since a very young age with family and friends. Soon I started to wonder what was under waves! The fascination that there are such incredible creatures thriving in an environment so drastically different than the one we are used to is never ending.”
Hannah Harries, Marine Educator (Four Seasons Resort Seychelles)
Hannah grew up in sunny West Wales where she spent all of her time in the rock pools of the rugged coastline or out in the bay anxiously searching for seals, dolphins, porpoise or anything that was around! From a very young age being a marine biologist was the only thing on her mind and completing her initial dive courses in the Red Sea sealed the deal. After work experience stints in aquariums and with conservation organisations, Hannah then set off for a year in Australia where she worked on dive boats and in shops, and trained as a Divemaster whilst working as an apprentice on the Great Barrier Reef. Although she was reluctant to leave the warm waters down under, Hannah returned to Wales to complete a degree in Marine Vertebrate Zoology at Bangor University.
After graduating university, Hannah reached out to volunteer at a local conservation organisation back at home in Pembrokeshire who she’d completed work experience with during school. After a stint volunteering, Hannah secured some funding to make herself an official employee – starting off as a Science and Education Officer initially; she then became Project Co-ordinator. Three years with Sea Trust monitoring the cetaceans of the Irish Sea, raising awareness within the local community and managing an education centre have cemented Hannah’s passion for inspiring others to be interested and involved in the marine environment. Hannah strongly believes that promoting the value of the marine environment is crucial in its conservation, and that education and awareness are definitely key.
“Having grown up right by the sea, originally it was a love of dolphins and desire to know more about life under the sea and within the rockpools that inspired me; now my passion is to inspire others to love and care about our seas and what’s in them just as much as I do!”
Rick-Ernest Bonnier, Marine Educator (Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita)
Since very young, Rick has had a passion for animal care and welfare. A dog owner since a young age, he wanted to learn more about animal behaviour, and at the age of twenty he joined the Safari Park in Mauritius to learn about the handling of big cats. Wanting to expand his knowledge of animal behaviour, Rick started volunteering at the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society in his spare time by helping on awareness programmes in schools and teaching children about marine life, the types of cetaceans in Mauritius, cetacean behaviour, and dolphin watching.
Rick joined the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation as a volunteer for the monitoring of Mauritian endemic birds. He began his work monitoring the pink pigeon at Ile Aux Aigrette and Combo Forest. After two months, the director transferred him to the Mauritian Kestrel project base on the east coast at Ferney, where he monitored the kestrel population in different deer farming properties, valleys, and forests on the east coast. Rick joined the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society in 2012 where he has held various positions, such as the Assistant Scientific Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator and Education Officer. Responsible for coordinating an eco volunteer programme, collecting data on different cetacean and sea turtle encounters at sea, and raising awareness with the community and tourists about marine life and threats. Mr. Bonnier also had the opportunity to work on Round Island in Mauritius, a highly protected offshore island with various endemic plants, reptiles and seabird habitats. Mr. Bonnier has a school certificate in Economics from Imperial College, Mauritius and a Higher School Certificate in Economics from Curepipe College, Mauritius. He has also taken courses in community conservation in Seychelles and endangered species recovery done by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in collaboration with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.
Last Year, Rick was awarded the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, which began in 2014 and is the flagship programme of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), empowering young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. Rick did a 6 week leadership course at University of California and an internship of 6 weeks at Cape Haterras National Seashore North Carolina. He was also invited to a presidential summit where he met the President of United States and many government officials.
Rick is so excited to join the WiseOceans team at Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita as this work is a combination of his passions of teaching and exploring the marine life.
‘My goal is not only to educate and increase people’s awareness about the marine life, but also to immerse them and inspire them to be passionate’.
Ben Taylor, Manager of WiseOceans Seychelles
Ben is a marine biologist from Stoke-on-trent (an English city that is as far away from the sea as you can get) who has always had a passion for biology, but it was not until an A-level marine biology field trip that he discovered his true passion for the marine world. Whilst surveying the fauna and flora of intertidal rockpools in Wales he came across a chiton. He was so amazed by the chiton and other marine organisms that it implanted a deep desire to learn about the marine environment. Ben decided to follow his passion and studied Marine and Freshwater Biology BSc at Aberystwyth University, Wales. After his second year he felt he needed to complement his theoretical knowledge with first-hand experience in marine education and moved to Georgia in the USA, where he worked for a year as an environmental educator. He taught a variety of classes from marine biology to beach ecology as well as leading tours of local attractions whilst also curating marine aquariums and conducting public outreach events, a role that he fully enjoyed and which marked him for life.
On completing his BSc he went on to build his marine experience and worked for a turtle conservation NGO in Cape Verde as a ranger, where he primarily raised funds and promoted outreach with the public, tourists and local businesses, whilst also leading daily tours to see the loggerhead sea turtles. Having fallen for island life and sea turtles, Ben left Cape Verde to volunteer in the Seychelles for 3 months where he was again involved with hawksbill turtle conservation on Cousin island.
From these experiences Ben’s mind was set that he wanted to become a more multi-disciplined marine biologist, so he enrolled on the International Marine Environmental Consultancy MSc at Newcastle University in the UK. For his Master’s thesis, he went to Saudi Arabia to work as a consultant as part of a larger research group, where he conducted a baseline visual census and a stable isotopic analysis of invertebrates found at coral reefs around a pollution source. During his research, he caught the coral reef bug and after a short period in Berlin, Ben moved to Seychelles to work as a science officer for a marine conservation volunteering programme. In the role, he taught and trained the marine biologists of the future in coral reef ID and SCUBA survey methodology in the Cap Ternay marine park in north west Mahé, Seychelles. Through his work he developed a deep understanding of the climate of the area along with some of the issues surrounding conservation in the Seychelles.
Ben had a strong desire to continue working in the Seychelles with the aim to promote conservation through education and outreach which meant the manager position at WiseOceans Seychelles was a natural progression. Combining his passion to teach and educate, with the possibility to work on relevant scientific projects and forging strong relationships with the local community are the aspects that he is most looking forward to in his role.
“Education is at its best when it is fun, engaging and passionate! One inspirational teacher is all I needed to be become a marine biologist. Now it my turn to share this knowledge and help to inspire the next conservationists of the future, and help to preserve the marine environment”
Samantha Barnett, Marine Educator (Four Seasons Resort Seychelles)
Samantha has always had a personal connection to the marine environment, having been born in the Bondi Beach area of Sydney, and growing up in Cairns bordering the Great Barrier Reef. Weekends throughout her childhood would often consist of adventures to the reef, exploring nearby coral cays and islands and camping along the coast.
Samantha’s natural passion for observing wildlife and interest in understanding animal adaptations led her to a Bachelor degree in Zoology at James Cook University, Cairns. During her undergraduate studies, she began furthering her practical skill-set in marine science aboard a reef charter boat visiting outer reef sites. Here she extended her diving training to Divemaster certifications and became a snorkelling guide/lifeguard delivering both beginner snorkel classes and outer shelf/wall excursions for experienced snorkelers. She also volunteered as a marine scientist for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s long-term reef monitoring program whereby she contributed regular reef monitoring and health surveys for her work reef locations. Once graduated, Samantha earned a contract role as a project co-ordinator and entomology technician investigating bee health, invasive bee species and their parasites with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. In this role, she was responsible for coordinating and conducting land-based insect surveys, collecting samples and curating specimens for a biosecurity scheme. The research completed in her year of employment was transposed into two government technical reports on safe animal handling and field surveying on which she co-authored.
Following her contract year working with the government, Samantha wished to further her studies and held particular interest in the area of Toxin Ecology/Physiology. She enrolled to be a research postgraduate student at James Cook University, Cairns and begun researching the world’s most venomous marine fish, the stonefish. Her research focused on exploring the toxins produced by stonefish (did you know stonefish produce two different toxins?) – venom produced in the dorsal spine gland and a relatively unknown toxin that resides in the skin tissue! Outcomes from her study found that contrary to popular belief, stonefish venom is not as primitive in its design as previously thought, but in fact shows great cell specificity to induce pain for defensive purposes. She also recorded the first toxin profile for the skin toxin of stonefish which she later discovered acts as a protective barrier halting damaging fouling animals like barnacles from attaching to the stonefish’s skin while increasing the amount of plant growth along the skin, allowing them to be continuously camouflaged by plant matter and thus increasing successful hunting. Her postgraduate degree allowed her the opportunity not only to combine her love for physiology but also her love for animal handling and care – not many other people can say they’ve handled and toxin ‘milked’ a stonefish!
With an increased technical skill-set in animal husbandry from her postgraduate studies, Samantha later was employed as a technician in animal science at the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine and Health, James Cook University, Cairns and the biomedical facility at Monash University (MU), Melbourne. Recently she has returned to the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef as a Marine Biologist promoting education aboard reef charter boats. It is Samantha’s hope that her love for promoting education about animal physiology and ecology will positively encourage individuals to take a greater appreciation for their conservation and bring a stronger awareness for the marine environment. She is also excited that her technical experience working with animals will work to benefit the coral propagation and transplant efforts in the Seychelles to support the local reef systems here.
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