An Interview with WiseOceans… Karen Fuentes from Mexican Caribbean Manta Project
This week we are with Karen Fuentes in Mexico. Falling in love with magnificent manta rays has changed Karen’s life which is now dedicated to the conservation of these incredible giants of the oceans…
Name: Karen Fuentes
Job Title: Founder of Mexican Caribbean Manta Project and Project Leader
- What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?
I always felt attracted to nature, but when I saw the reef for the first time it was like magic! I couldn’t believe how much life was there and how many colors in the same spot!!! I got addicted to the ocean and since then I decided to work in marine conservation for the rest of my life!
- What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
Definitely it is non-stop improvements or studies on topics related to marine ecosystems every year there are new discoveries and new technology that allow us to understand little bit more of the vast oceans! I love to read science magazines, books and articles in order to expand my knowledge about marine life.
- How did you land your current job/position?
I founded the Mexican Caribbean Manta Project and work as a Project Leader for Manta Trust, as a result of a dream! I never imagined myself running a non-profit, I wasn’t very disciplined in early days, anyways, nature transformed my way of living and the way I see life now, I want to make a difference with this organization for future generations and the conservation of marine life but especially for my adorable and most lovely animals in the planet, manta rays!
- Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
I have to say and I’m completely honest, I love to do everything that is related with mantas and marine conservation or education, there is something in every different area that keeps me encouraged to learn, to get better on that and I think is super fun! I love challenges! It’s an amazing sensation to overcome situations where at the beginning I wasn’t sure I could do, but when I do, I just love it!! Keeps me motivated to keep learning.
- Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’?
I believe when you are driven by your passion in life there is no way that whatever you do goes wrong! There are challenges and fears sometimes, but is just something like in my case I can’t stop thinking within a day to don’t do something related with marine conservation that will help mantas.
I love when kids at workshops learn how to identify a manta from the rest of the rays for example, or just as simple as to encourage them to not use straws, plastic bags etc. Is a matter of everyday practices that makes a huge difference of our impact in natural resources.
- What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
I wish I had more commitment in my early years and more information about the impact humans do to the planet in our daily basic habits. Now I’m absolutely grateful to have such amazing people around me that encourages me to go forward!
- Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Definitely!! That would be commitment, discipline and patience, in order to accomplish your goals, you required to work very hard!
- What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?
To never give up if it’s really your dream! Even some obstacles are going to show up once in a while but that will makes you only stronger to keep moving forward.
Get surrounded by people that motivate and encourages you to be better! There are a bunch of organizations that require commitment from people, so get involved! Oceans needs more conservationist that love what they do in order to protect the marine ecosystems!
- What is your favourite marine creature and why?
No doubt my Mantas!!!!! There is nothing more perfect than manta rays! How amazing these creatures! I’m so in love with them! Big, smart, gentle, graceful and absolutely curious! They stole my heart!
- What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?
The first time I saw a manta ray!!! Since I started my conservationist carrier 9 year ago, I always wanted to see them. I remember I watched a documentary in the Maldives related with mantas and was completely astonished by their beauty. During my work as a dive tour guide with whale sharks the day came, I swam with a manta ray! It was like a dream, I was literally crying, I couldn’t believe it! There were real, they existed! That day I promised that my purpose in life will be to protect mantas the rest of my life!
Thanks Karen, I am sure your infectious enthusiasm for your work and mantas will inspire many fellow marine conservationist to get involved and follow in your footsteps.
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