This week we chat to… Andrew Taylor. A lifetime working in marine conservation has taught him that if you are passionate about something then go for it, focus on what interests you and work with the people who share your passion.
Name: Andrew Taylor
Job Title: Director of Blue Corner Conservation & Owner of Blue Corner Dive
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I started diving when I was 12 in Malaysia and then became a divemaster at 19. I was always fascinated by nature – both terrestrial & aquatic which naturally led me to study environmental science then continue to pursue post-graduate studies in marine ecology. I first became involved in marine habitat restoration projects and underwater debris cleanups as a volunteer following the Indian Ocean Tsunami. After seeing the degraded state of many marine ecosystems worldwide I wanted to train in the field of restoration ecology and find a way to help.
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
My thesis research of my post-graduate studies was looking at reef restoration methods and evaluating effectiveness. Upon finishing my university studies I worked as a marine habitat biologist and restoration practitioner for an environmental consulting company based out of Canada.
- How did you land your current job/position?
After working for a few years in the environmental consulting industry I decided to move back to an area with coral reefs and start a dive centre in Indonesia with a focus on marine conservation training. Together with a close childhood friend, we found a little plot of beach-front land on Nusa Lembongan island for building our dive shop. The island was a perfect location for me as a biologist because of the unique marine environment of Nusa Lembongan – at the southern point of the Indonesian Throughflow the area receives some of the highest biodiversity in the world and is an important marine animal migration route. So I knew I could spend many years underwater here and never grow tired of the diving.
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
In recent years I have been able to focus more on marine conservation and become involved in partnerships with some of the other organizations in the local area which are doing amazing work. The teaching aspect had always been a favourite part of the job for me – introducing students to coral reefs and teaching marine ecology programs. However recently now that we have started the Blue Corner Conservation organization, I find satisfaction in being able to put my education and abilities to use in practical restoration efforts here in Indonesia.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
When I go underwater and see the growth on corals in our restoration site it makes all the hard work and frustrations seem worth the effort. This week I found some of the first new naturally settled corals starting to grow on one of the structures which was an exciting moment for me seeing the project working.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I think that I am at this point because I didn’t know the things I know now… Had I known in advance about all the frustrations, setbacks and logistical and legal issues with operating here in Indonesia then probably I would never have followed this path! But I am stubborn that this is what I want to be doing – so find a way to make it work. It’s a matter of sticking with what I am passionate about and getting lots of time underwater with nature to remind myself of that passion.
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
In my first years of university, I studied civil engineering but didn’t find much satisfaction in that so switched into marine biology. It’s amazing how much I have made use of those engineering skills in building, designing, surveying for different projects.
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
If you are passionate about it then go for it! Study lots about what interests you, meet as many people as you can who also share those passions – don’t see them as competitors but rather as collaborators. There are lots of frustrations and blockades which might seem insurmountable at times, but with a good team and strong passion then there is always a way to make it work.
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
Salmon – because they go out and roam in the open ocean, but always remember their home river to return in the end.
For me, salmon are an analogy for my life and career – staying passionate to continue on with projects while remembering the bigger picture and past experiences.
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
I have had so many unforgettable moments in the sea – many good, many awful. Working on bottom trawling fishing vessels hauling in thousands of tons of dead bycatch in Canada, or seeing repetitive destruction of tourism pontoons in Indonesia clearing large areas of coral reef for their anchors and reef walking paths… But seeing signs of the ocean’s resilience against our destructive forces is the best moments for me. Last week, when I saw the first hard coral naturally settled on our restoration structures, is unforgettable for me.
Thank you Andrew for your great interview!