An Interview with WiseOceans… Ana Ciriyawa from GVI (Fiji)
This week we chat with Ana from GVI Fiji. Her first-hand experience of depleting fish stocks persuaded her to switch from a medical career to one in marine biology. Taking every opportunity that came her way she is now Science and Engagement Officer for GVI in Fiji.
Name: Ana Ciriyawa
Job Title: Science and Engagement Officer
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
My father. I grew up in a village by the sea and have always loved the water. My father being a fisherman would take me on his fishing trips and teach me local names of the marine creatures he knew. From a young age, he told me the sizes of fish he caught were not the same as before and that fish were becoming scarce. The ocean being so large in my eyes, I did not understand this until I was taught about it in school. My love turned into a passion to conserve the fish that were slowly depleting. It grew even more when I learnt that everything was interconnected from the land to the sea. With passion, comes curiosity. I wanted to learn about life in the ocean, how they were being affected and what I can do to contribute to the efforts of conserving them. So instead of going to medical school to be a doctor, I diverted to the University of the South Pacific to be a Marine Biologist.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
– Studied biology, chemistry and physics in high school
– Attained a Marine Science degree from the University of the South Pacific
– Volunteered for NGOs working towards marine conservation
– Volunteered for a sea turtle nesting project for 3 months
– Attained a scholarship to complete my dive training with GVI and learn underwater survey methodologies
– Completed 3 months attachment with Ministry of Fisheries
– Sharing my passion with primary school students
– Taking part in awareness campaigns
- How did you land your current job/position?
I was offered a scholarship to complete my dive training (Open Water and Advanced Open Water) and learn marine survey techniques with GVI in 2015 and then offered another scholarship in 2017 to complete my rescue and Divemaster training. I learnt a great deal and interacted with volunteers from all around the globe. I was then offered the position of Science Officer after the completion of my Divemaster.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
– Sharing my passion with like-minded individuals from all around the world
– Seeing the enthusiastic faces of young people light up when they learn something interesting about marine life
– Being able to contribute to a large network of people and organisations working towards marine conservation
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
Very much. We have had lots of volunteers who have gone on to universities to study either marine or environmental science after finishing the program. I contribute a lot of my time sharing my knowledge and passion for the environment with these young individuals and it makes me so happy that they are now choosing to fight the same battle with me. Being able to share with communities we work with the importance of marine protected areas and helping them set up their own MPAs and being able to contribute to providing a safe haven to the marine creatures in our small part of the globe both make me feel like I am making a difference.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
There’s a lot of things that we use on a daily basis that harm the environment and I wasn’t fully aware until I came to GVI. Now, I am able to share this with my friends and family back home on alternative products we can use.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Diving and learning to survey the reef as well as teaching.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
The planet has tirelessly given her all to us, now lets all work together to give something back. You don’t have to be in an NGO, or a big company to make a difference, start small in your own backyard and go on from there. Small changes make a big difference so continue to fuel that passion for the environment. Share your passion with the people around you. The more people we have working towards a better and healthier environment, the better.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
Sea turtles. I have worked with turtles since 2014 and have found them to be amazingly calm creatures. They are travellers and have been around for millions of years…They are resilient, facing so many hardships to reach adulthood…They are super chilled underwater either quietly feeding, getting cleaned or resting. Just like every other marine life, they contribute to the health of an ecosystem and are an important part of the food chain.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
– Almost bumping head to head with a green turtle.
– Hearing the call of a humpback whale underwater
– A remora trying to attach itself to my fins. 😀
Thank you Ana. Your passion and enthusiasm for marine life is self-evident and it is great to see you share it will all the volunteers that come through GVI. Don’t forget to sign up to our weekly job alert emails and keep an eye on our Wise Work pages so you don’t miss your dream opportunity in marine conservation.