An Interview with WiseOceans…Louise Sabadel from WiseOceans

This week we chat to…our very own Louise Sabadel who works for WiseOceans at the Four Seasons Resort in Bora Bora, French Polynesia. Louise’s advice is to see your mind and options open. Sometimes we know exactly what we want to do and sometimes we don’t, and both of those are fine! As Louise says, we all have such diverse careers and paths, and they are made of opportunities that presented themselves, most often unexpectedly, and it is all about taking advantage of that.

Name: Louise Sabadel

Job Title: Marine Biologist and Educator (Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora)

Organisation: WiseOceans

  • What inspired you to pursue a career in marine conservation?

I had been a scuba diver for several years already when I started my bachelor degree in Biology, so I naturally took a few optional classes on Marine Biology. I then realised this could be the opportunity of linking my future professional life to my passion and I did not hesitate. I specialised in conservation during my masters degree. It is for me one of the fields that is challenged with the most pressing issues and I wanted to be part of the effort to have an impact and spread awareness on the importance of our oceans.

Since then I have been very happy with those choices. It is not a cliché to say that when you do something you love, you do not work a single day in your life.

  • What steps did you take/are you taking to achieve your career goals?
I did not really have a very specific goal in mind at any point. I realised soon that marine careers were made out of opportunities, often being at the right place at the right time, and also slightly creating your own luck to make things move forward. So I just kept my eyes wide open and made sure to do my best to seize opportunities. I was able to join great projects that made me gain invaluable experience, with admirable mentors who shared their knowledge, experience and helped making me a better marine scientist every day. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them again.
  • How did you land your current job/position? 
It was probably a combination of having the right professional experience, and being quite lucky. I had been working on a very similar project beforehand, which enabled me to obtain great experience both in coral restoration and in resort guests’ relations and activities. It is a simple story of seeing the job description online and immediately applying for it. I was very interested in this project, I knew it fit perfectly with my skills and I could relate very well to the vision and values of WiseOceans. All this made my determination of being part of that team and project stronger, and I was lucky that it simply worked out.
  • Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?  

My work consists of managing a coral restoration project in the lagoon of the resort I am based at, as well as interacting with resort’s guests to promote ocean awareness, presenting marine life talks and leading guided snorkels to help them discover the marine life diversity of French Polynesia.

This is for me the best possible combination of WiseOceans’ fundamental principles: Conservation and Education. I really enjoy having those two aspects of being part of active conservation projects through coral restoration and participating to raise awareness on ocean conservation to the general public; I find this highly fulfilling and rewarding. A great aspect is that you are constantly facing different challenges in the water, and each interaction you have with a person is completely unique, so it makes every day different from the one before. You are constantly challenged, learning and adapting, I really like this.

Finally, being in the ocean so often is such a blessing, what a happy place.

  • Are there aspects of your position which make you feel that you are really ‘making a difference’? 

When doing coral restoration, you can see the lagoon getting shaped by the work implemented, witnessing the changes and their repercussions on all the different levels of the marine community. You can actually see the product of your work with the corals growing over the weeks and months, recruiting fish communities and providing greater ecosystem services, and this is always encouraging.

On an educational level, there are plenty of positive outcomes and feedback from an interaction with guests. Knowing that you managed to get information through, to make them understand or discover a key point on how we all have a role to play in conservation and the protection of the oceans and our planet. Raising awareness is such an important aspect of the work if we want to make a tangible difference, and it makes every day count.

  • What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?  
I started working right after finishing my studies, so everything was quite new for me. When my turn came to be managing a team, it was quite challenging at first as there are many parameters to organise and specific factors to consider. However challenges are always a great opportunity to push yourself, and again I could count on more experienced people to provide useful advice, so it just turned out to be another chance to grow and expand my skills set.
  • Are there any skills you never thought you would need but did?
Not ones I never thought I would need, but positions like this one definitely help acquire new skills or broaden others. I learnt how to drive a boat, I improved my freediving skills, but also my social media and general communication skills, which is less expected. That is another positive aspect of this position: you need proficiency in quite a few domains and a lot of flexibility, which keeps it always interesting.
  • What advice would you give to budding marine conservationists?  

To keep your mind and options open. If you already have a good idea of what you want to do, it is great, you are lucky so keep going. However if you do not really know, it is fine too. We all have such diverse careers and paths, they are all made of opportunities that presented themselves, most often unexpectedly, and it is all about taking advantage of that. Academic training is important but after that, do not hesitate to go out there and get as much experience as you can.

Another advice is to not give up. It is a competitive field for sure, but at the same time we need so many people; the issues to be tackled are so great that we need all of you who are motivated and eager to make a difference.

  • What is your favourite marine creature and why?  

Definitely I have to answer ‘Corals’ to that question. There is such a mind-blowing diversity of those organisms, and they are so incredibly complex. A great number of factors have to be taken into account to carry on successful restoration projects, tiny changes can have such a dramatic impact. Plus there is still so much that we do not know yet, we are always discovering something new, and that makes them truly fascinating.

At the same time, there are several juvenile yellow boxfish, Ostracion cubicus, in my lagoon at the moment, and I have to say those are the cutest fish you can find…but still corals!

  • What is your most unforgettable moment in the sea?  
I was so lucky as to join the Manta Trust research boat when working in the Maldives and accompany their team in Hanifaru Bay, the world’s largest aggregation of manta rays in Baa Atoll. One day there were 150+ mantas with us in the bay… Swimming with that many mantas was the most incredible experience I had so far in the sea (and this will be very difficult to beat). They are so gentle, elegant and charismatic animals. When there are so many of them, you don’t know where to look anymore, you turn around and they are coming from all over the place, by dozens! It was absolutely magical.

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Thank you Louise, you can of course find out more about the work our marine discovery team do through our website here.

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.

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